February 09, 2010

The Nation’s Third Oldest College Newspaper

Volume 80, Issue 9

Diversity Advocates make an impact at NU

Shown are members of Diversity Advocates, a new club at NU

Shown are members of Diversity Advocates, a new club at NU

The Diversity Advocates student organization is a newly formed student organization with goals to encourage diversity among NU students. 

President Crystal Brea, believes, "discussion, awareness, and dialogue are the keys to a diverse and inclusive campus environment."

Students who share similar beliefs interact with one another through a number of different organized activities and events related to cultural integration and diverse initiatives.

"Breaking barriers" and "extending awareness of our differences" are both common themes found in the mission statement regarding the Diversity Advocates organization's plans and goals.

Tunde Adepegba, chief of staff to the president, says, "The diversity advocates may really spark motivation in individuals with regard to making a difference in a positive way on Niagara University's campus." He went on to say, "the advocates would like to see increased participation from local communities and outreach programs."

The organization is comprised of 20 consistent members who attend weekly meetings and self-advertise the group's beliefs. Students participate in meetings and share different ways to comfortably adjust the social norms surrounding campus. Support is a commonly discussed theme at the gatherings: Individuals are able to attend and feel safe in portraying their ideas with regard to diversity around NU.

"It is a touchy subject, and it is certainly a controversial topic. However, there is a rational and fun way of approaching individual and group ideas when dealing with diversity issues around a university campus," Brea said.

On Feb. 1, the Diversity Advocates organization welcomed Dr. Derek Greenfield, assistant professor at Shaw University, to speak at an inspirational workshop. Greenfield used real-world examples and experiences to challenge participants to look at their own beliefs and views of the world. When talking about NU Greenfield asked, "Is this an environment where everyone feels at home?"

In one of Greenfield's exercises, participants were asked whether they would buy a basketball for their daughter. Many said yes. Then participants were asked if they would buy a doll for their son. The answer for many was "no." By doing these exercises, the participants connected with strangers and got a look at the world from other's perspectives.

"At first I was unsure whether or not I was going to attend the presentation.In fact, a friend encouraged me to come, so I thought I'd go in support of her," said NU freshman Vince Schiano, a participant at the workshop. "To my surprise, the presentation was extremely powerful, even to a guy like me who thinks ˜status quo' is acceptable. People don't realize that diversity isn't really just black and white, it's weight, it's height, it's basically anything you can think of."

The work of the Diversity Advocates organization is not just impacting students on campus, but faculty as well.

"I think that diversity advocates showed great leadership in organizing this event. From what I experienced, these sessions have touched those who have participated and connected us in truly human ways. To me that's what NU and its mission are all about," said Dr. Bonnie Rose, executive vice president and vice president for academic affairs.

Students in the Diversity Advocates organization attempt to follow their five core values while being active and encouraging members of Niagara's academic community. Demonstrating quality, respect, acceptance, fellowship and understanding, plays an important role in being a member of the group. The goal of the advocates is to bridge the unconscious gap that some students may have difficulty identifying. The Vincentian mission can be seen throughout the work that the advocates have been organizing.

For more information about the Diversity Advocates student organization e-mail diversityadvocates@niagara.edu or visit www.niagara.edu/diversityadvocates. Meetings are held every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in St. Vincent DePaul Room 310. 

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