Dialogue encourages students to embrace diversity

Michael Lopick

One by one students raised their hands. Some told stories of acceptance while others discussed the fear and discrimination that can come with diversity.

“You hear it and you hear it again: the dream and keeping it alive. It’s not done yet,” said Keith Wisdom, director of AALANA Initiatives for the Student Multicultural Center, as he addressed students in the Kiva Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Diversity Roundtable Dialogue.

The roundtable, formerly the Black and Brown Dialogue, provided students with a chance to share their experience with diversity on and off campus as well as ideas to improve how Kent State celebrates it.

Kelsey Laflin, a sophomore early childhood education major, came to the roundtable thinking diversity had already been achieved and accepted across campus and was surprised to hear that some thought it wasn’t. She believes attending a diverse high school skewed her perception.

“It’s interesting to me to hear people say that they feel like things aren’t very diverse,” she said. “Going to Kent Roosevelt, which was so diverse and accepting of everyone, I never really gave diversity a thought, it was second nature to me. I grew up thinking that America made such big leaps, but I guess maybe we haven’t come as far as we think we have.”

Panelists that led the diversity dialogue included AALANA Initiatives Director Wisdom, David Garcia, associate vice president of enrollment management and chair of the Latino Networking Caucus; and Geraldine Hayes-Nelson, executive director of outreach and initiatives for the Division of Human Resources.

Each of the faculty members described how they encountered “difference” and how they reacted to it.

Throughout the dialogue, the word “difference” was used to represent differences in race, faith, gender, sexuality and cultural background because students usually only associate diversity with race, when in reality it encompasses all those traits.

After the faculty finished their stories, Garcia turned the microphone over the students.

“This was a forum to share our personal stories about what diversity means to us and how we were able to overcome barriers and challenges,” he said. “We turned it around to ask students what diversity meant to them and what Kent State can do better to get the word out and get them more involved in activities where they can learn more about difference.”

Students shared their personal experiences with diversity, which raised deeper diversity discussions about the Kent State community.

Brittany Patterson, senior human development and family studies major, enjoyed seeing students come together to converse about issues facing diversity at Kent State and believes it is an important part of her personal and professional life.

“Today gave me more motivation to make sure that I’m always being open minded when meeting people of different backgrounds than myself,” she said. “Cultural awareness and competency is important to me and my career. I loved hearing everyone’s experiences.”

At the conclusion of the roundtable, students were asked to sign up to be a part of a new group committed to making students more aware of diversity events on campus.

Graeme Mohan, junior integrated language arts major, thought the dialogue was an important way for students to express themselves and was happy to sign up for the group.

“It was great seeing students from such different backgrounds come together to talk about the true meaning of diversity,” he said. “I look forward to what we can do to keep improving and embracing it here on campus.”

Wisdom hopes the dialogue will act as a springboard for students to begin advancing not only diversity but their lives and inspire them.

“Please do something more for yourself, simply so you can feel alive,” he said. “Live in this moment and do something great and something great will come back to you.”

Contact Michael Lopick at [email protected].