Students make new connections with help from Student Diversity

Many students feel alone when they enter college. For many people, being different can lead to feelings of isolation, especially when they are in new surroundings. Even those who seem to do well in college can find themselves struggling to fit in and find acceptance.

Bola Majekobaje, assistant director for student diversity, once felt the same way as a disengaged college student. Away from her family and the only black student in classes of up to 400 students, Majekobaje felt truly alone. It was during a lecture that she first felt like she belonged. The speaker, addressing a room filled with students, said that if they could see themselves from her position, they would see their value as individuals. This speech stuck with Majekobaje throughout her college experience. The speaker, along with various departments and organizations that Majekobaje would encounter, attempted to make a connection with the students. It was these connections that would give Majekobaje strength and support to successfully navigate her journey through college. This is what Connections 2014 strives to do according to Majekobaje. It is an opportunity to make an impact in someone’s life. “What will you do to impact change?” Majekobaje asked the audience. She ended her speech reiterating the very words that made such an impression on her as a student, “Each of you are beautiful, and you’re all that and a bag of chips.”

Student diversity hosted Connections 2014 on September 10 in Firstenburg Student Commons. This event, already in its eighth year, invited students to make a connection with others around free food and live music. In order to foster an environment conducive to connecting, various conversation starters dubbed “Spontaneous Meet and Greets” would randomly pop up on the projector screen throughout the evening. The topics varied widely from the general, such as ones major and background, to the unconventional questions about personal pet history and dream travel destination. The conversation topics’ arrival, accompanied by a chime, was the attendees cue to meet someone new at the event and begin making a connection.

The highlight of Connections 2014 was the photo gallery Faces of WSUV, a joint project between student diversity and marketing and communications. The display featured photos of twelve different members of the WSU Vancouver community and their stories. According to Student Diversity Center Advisor, Amanda Shannahan, the gallery was a way to not only emphasize the diversity of the campus, but also to hopefully enable attendees to discover a connection with at least one of the people showcased. Attendees were also encouraged to join in a miniature version of the project. By visiting the “Selfie Station,” students could have their picture taken and share their own story.

Other features of the event were the various tables set up by campus clubs, like the Cougar Pride Club and the Students with Disabilities Club, and local nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest. These tables were an opportunity for students to not only discover a connection through volunteering, but also, through the work, help support others who might be looking for a connection as well.

While Connections 2014 has passed, students who still hold interested in creating a new connection may contact the Student Diversity Center directly at VFSC 136 or through Facebook at facebook.com/studentdiversity.

Photo featuring Student Diversity Center, Connections grand opening event. Photos by Gregory Walker

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