News

December 13, 2013

Challenging People to Think Differently about Diversity

By Shehtaz Huq ’14

Our Beloved Community, Lafayette’s second annual diversity symposium, drew students, faculty, and administrators to Kirby Hall of Civil Rights to engage in open dialogue about social justice. About 60 prospective students also attended the symposium, which is designed to provide a safe space to discuss complex issues in an environment that promotes active citizenship and social engagement.

Brianna Braswell ’16 fields a question from the audience.

Brianna Braswell ’16 fields a question from the audience.

From “Your Brain on Diversity” by Tim Silvestri, assistant director of the Counseling Center, to “The Mathematics of Social Justice” by Rob Root, professor and head of mathematics, the sessions covered various aspects of having an inclusive community on campus.

View more images of the symposium on Flickr

“Too many people believe that diversity is something tangible, such as the physical presence of a person of color or someone of a specific socio-economic background or sexual orientation,” says history major Anna Harris ’14 (Etna, N.H.). “However, diversity is a mindset, a belief, or a cultural behavior that informs how you understand, communicate, empathize, form friendships, and actualize community.”

Wendy Wilson-Fall, professor and chair of Africana Studies, presents the session on “Africana Studies in the New Millennium.”

Wendy Wilson-Fall, professor and chair of Africana Studies, presents the session on “Africana Studies in the New Millennium.”

Other session topics included “The Colorblindness Myth,” “You Might Be a Feminist,” “Africana Studies in the New Millennium,” “Social Justice Peer Education,” and “What in the World is LGBTQIA?”

“At an event such as this, we bring a multitude of students together to explore our individual and group identities in a way that celebrates who we are,” says Julia Guarch ’15 (Milltown, N.J.), a self-designed art major. “These avenues have allowed me to meet a number of fantastic individuals, change my views on many topics for the better, mature as a person, and discover things about myself that would have remained hidden otherwise.”

Dan Mills ’15 answers questions during the “What in the World is LGBTQIA?” session.

Dan Mills ’15 answers questions during the “What in the World is LGBTQIA?” session.

English and Spanish double major Julia Campbell ’15 (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) believes diversity has played an impactful role in shaping her college experience. She credits Silvestri’s First-Year Seminar on multicultural competency and her involvement in Alternative School Break for helping her realize the significance of group identities such as gender, race, sexual orientation, and religious heritage.

“I wish we had had events such as Our Beloved Community three years ago when I was a prospective student to challenge us to think differently about diversity,” she says. “It’s important to understand that there’s more to ‘diversity’ than the color of one’s skin.”

Other session leaders:

  • Wendy Wilson-Fall, associate professor and chair of Africana Studies
  • Paul McLoughlin II, dean of students
  • John McKnight, dean of intercultural development
  • Mary Armstrong, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies
  • George Panichas, Hogg Professor and head of philosophy
  • Ben Cohen, assistant professor of engineering studies
  • Debbie Byrd, professor of English
  • Gene Kelly, director of gender and sexuality programs
  • Alexandra Hendrickson, College chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life
  • students from the Association of Lafayette Feminists, Kaleidoscope, and Questioning Established Sexual Taboos.

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