Student Diversity Center holds grand opening

On Tuesday, August 26, the new Student Diversity Center officially opened. The day was marked by a grand opening celebration commencing with a short presentation by Student Diversity members, followed by free food and activities.

Assistant Director for Student Diversity Bola Majekobaje welcomed the attendees in her opening speech. According to Majekobaje, the new center aims to advance diversity in accordance with Washington State University Vancouver’s three official goals as outlined in the school’s 2011-2016 Strategic Plan. Additionally, Majekobaje emphasized the important role, both past and future, of students in the success of the new center. She said that it was only through student voices and advocating that the idea of a new space for Student Diversity first received serious attention. Furthermore, the center was only funded through student activities. Majekobaje said that, because of this, her view of the center is “for the students, now and always.”

Following Majekobaje’s speech, Student Diversity team member Cesar Moreno was introduced as the new Student Diversity Intern. Moreno first became involved with Student Diversity after the program helped him in his college experience, giving him the sense of support and friendship he needed. As a Latino and first generation college student, Moreno felt “lost and disconnected” in his early days at WSU Vancouver. Now, he even considers the team a “part of [his] family.” According to Moreno, these connections and the feeling that one belongs is “vital and essential for a positive and successful college experience.” Moreno also discussed how, as a part of opening a new space, Student Diversity has also begun to rethink their approach to accomplishing their goals, especially in reaching out to the student population. They are now hoping to hold smaller, more intimate, recurring events at their new center like coffee hour or film screenings. These would be in addition to the larger annual events they hold such as the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Noche de Familia, and Connections 2014.

Along with a new intern, Student Diversity has also gained a new advisor. The new Student Diversity Center Advisor Amanda Shannahan discussed how her passion for advocating for diversity began. As a child, being a fourth-generation Japanese-American gave Shannahan a constant feeling of inferiority to other people around her. She knew she was different, and that difference was not celebrated. However, during her time spent in Japan as an assistant English teacher, Shannahan was able to reconnect with the culture of her ancestors. She discovered a rich and vibrant history and grew proud of who she was and from where her family came. Shannahan shared her view that the differences among each individual of the student body should be recognized. She noted that students should not have to lose their cultural identity in order to be successful in college. By utilizing these different strengths, the campus can foster a more inclusive environment.

To bring the presentation to a close, Student Diversity members Cetara Davis, Esmy Farias, James Torres, Dina Berrissoul, and Shain Wright presented “Uncover your Eyes,” an original poem written by Davis. The poem discussed the prevalence of so-called “casual” racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, and several other prejudices within our society. These biases were presented in the first half of the poem as a flurry of familiar, close-minded comments to show just how widespread these ideas are in society. The second half of the poem was an appeal to the audience to look at ourselves, challenge ourselves, to change these faulty beliefs, and to grow and unite as human beings.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was performed by Cesar Moreno, attendees were invited to come in and explore the new center. Guests were encouraged to mingle and meet the Student Diversity team. Food was provided by Portland food-truck Tamale Boy, and music was provided by KOUG Radio. There were also various activities such as creating your own button, and sharing what diversity means to you personally on a collaborative poster.

Students with questions or comments may contact the Student Diversity Center directly at VFSC 136 or through Facebook at facebook.com/studentdiversity


Photo features Student Diversity Center Team

Photo Credit: Gregory Walker

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