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 Tuesday, November 10, 2009 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

IN THE SPOTLIGHT


Student Perspective: Intersecting identities embraced with the help of mentors
by Corey H. Jones, senior, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Four CU-Boulder students whose lives intersected thanks to similar goals and interests spoke about how they navigate their own intersecting identities during a Nov. 2 Diversity and Inclusion Summit panel on "Intersectionality." Before a crowd of students, staff and faculty, the students addressed their individual involvements and communities, transitioning among those different roles, how to nurture a more diverse student community, and the importance of mentors and advocates on campus.

Junior Becca Aguilar first acknowledged the challenges of juggling multiple identities and her ability to rely on smaller communities to educate herself about the university as a whole. “Socially, it can be difficult to embrace several identities because you act differently when interacting with different groups,” said Aguilar, who closely identifies herself with the Mexican-American and the Greek communities on campus. “It’s important to just be who we are and embrace all our identities.”

The panel also pointed to the homogeneity at CU and suggested positive ways to make the campus more diverse and inclusive, stressing the importance of gaining firsthand knowledge. The students encouraged the audience to attend diversity trainings and cultural events and to share their experiences with others as well. “If people show up, great things can happen,” said senior Lindsay Jones, an African-American and openly gay student. Jones added, “We also need groups that address small, profound differences, such as being black and a lesbian.” This would better serve students who identify with multiple minority subgroups and who would benefit from more explicit resources, she said.

Senior Rachel Harris expressed the challenges of reaching out to the larger student community as a whole in order to spread awareness about the importance of these events. “There are not enough resources to talk about these issues with big groups comprised of people who are not affected directly,” said Harris. While her academic pursuits—which require the student to balance her interests in humanities and the sciences—have largely shaped her identity, Harris said that being a CU student entails much more than simply showing up for classes. She said that a change in culture stems from a change in dialogue, adding that increasing diversity at CU means more than “making the school look better.” Rather, it helps foster a more supportive and inclusive campus climate for all, she said.

To overcome these challenges, students agreed that CU administrators must seek to become more accessible to students who want to meet to address these issues. The panel stressed effective recruitment and retention strategies with regard to minority students. Aguilar said she’d like to see more outreach from administrators, recruiters who target diverse student pools, and a peer-mentoring program. “We can help the admissions office recruit to ensure that minority high school students can see themselves as students here, too,” she said.

Junior Jason Palo La Costa, who works at the GLBT Resource Center and is involved with CU’s Gay-Straight Alliance, said there is a need to work harder to retain students as well. The panel maintained that CU endeavor to provide more scholarships, support services, and events that specifically target upperclassmen. Too many upperclassmen feel forgotten, said Palo La Costa, and a variety of advice and support systems are necessary. When asked what faculty and staff could do to help, the panel suggested building stronger connections and relationships with students. “Having an older role model is critical,” Jones said.

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Student Perspective: Intersecting identities embraced with the help of mentors

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