Community discovers diversity through lens

Bryan Wroten

A snowman made by a Taiwanese student.

Students resting after working in Biloxi, Miss.

A student trying on a hijab to learn about a woman’s role in Islam.

Student, staff and faculty photographers took these pictures in hopes to share what they considered diversity.

Graduate students in professor Eunsook Hyun’s Multiculturalism in Higher Education Institutes class created a gallery, “Through the Eyes of Others: A Photo Journey of Diversity,” for members of the Kent State community to submit photos showing diversity. The photos were displayed in the Multicultural Center in the Student Center.

“It’s to show inclusive diversity on campus,” said Dan Terrel, graduate student and residence hall director. “Where others see diversity, others may see homogeneity because that’s who they are. To someone from a big town, they might say, ‘That’s what I see walking down the street.'”

He said the 45 photographs came from students, staff and faculty. They chose winners from the submissions.

• Elena Chernikova, international exchange student, won the student award for “Taiwanese snowman is not an oxymoron.”

• Martha Lash, assistant professor of teaching, leadership and curriculum studies, won the faculty award for “Lending a hand to share an experience,” a photo of a Muslim student helping another student put on traditional Muslim clothing for a class discussion.

• Deb Lyons, exchange visitor program specialist for the Center for International and Comparative Programs, won the staff award for “KSU ESL students enjoy Geauga Maple Festival.”

• Anne Morrison, assistant professor of education foundations and special services, won the off campus award for “Say hello to Papa,” a photo of a Cuban family waving hello to the family’s grandfather who lives in Columbus.

Hyun said this program is a turnaround from the last project, the Tunnel of Oppression. In that project, she said the students in her class provoked people’s preconceived notions of diversity. With the gallery, which she called a Tunnel of Enlightenment, she said it should get people to talk about the issue.

Another aspect of this project is that people no longer had to be passive recipients, she said. They could become active participants in the discussion of diversity, she said.

People will only learn about inclusive diversity by having a dialogue about it, she said. Coming in and looking at the pictures isn’t enough, she said, because unless people find out the story behind the photo, they won’t understand it fully.

Sarim Tot, graduate student in Hyun’s class, said the people coming in to see the gallery have understood the point of the project. A senior citizen came in with a young member of the Kent community, she said, and they discussed the significance of the photographs.

Though the class hoped for more participation from the community, Tot said this project was a good start. In the future, she said she would hope it could turn into something similar to a museum, including artwork, music and cultural items.

Freshman nursing major Narkita Burrell said she didn’t know about the gallery before coming into the room. When she saw the gallery, she posted her definition of diversity on one of the boards displaying the photographs.

“It should be like a salad,” she said. “Have everything mixed together.”

Diversity is an issue that should be stressed at Kent State, she said. If people learned more about each other’s cultures, she said several of this year’s racial controversies wouldn’t have happened.

Although Melissa Tkachyk, graduate student in Hyun’s class, liked the pictures, she said some of them looked too posed.

“I would like to see them (photographs) capture people working together and getting something accomplished,” she said. “Show them working through differences and putting them aside.”

She said the gallery was a good first step for the campus community to discuss diversity because “it provided a comfortable place for people to talk about it.”

The gallery will be open today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].