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Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca…UST Next?

Sunday night saw over 40 multicultural club representatives sit-in at the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) meeting to voice concerns about recent budget allocation and overall displeasure with the treatment of multicultural clubs and, more broadly, students of color at the University of St. Thomas.


As Gabrielle Ryan, USG’s Diversity Relations Representative, began to call for USG’s accountability in representing multicultural clubs, representatives stood and held up signs expressing their frustration:



When given the chance to vocalize their concerns, club leaders and members strongly reiterated several points: feelings of neglect and disrespect from both USG and White students on campus, calls for transparency on USG’s decision-making processes related to club financing, and calls for USG representatives to intentionally engage with multicultural club representatives during decision-making processes.

Club representatives at the protest explained that many of these issues of poor representation and neglect have persisted throughout their tenures at UST. To them, this protest is the result of years of discrimination and only the beginning of a push to bring larger institutional changes to the university that make UST more accommodating of students of color.

Frankly, there is nothing different between the treatment experienced by multicultural leaders here versus their peers at Missouri, Yale, or Ithaca. These students have reported being discouraged when beginning to express frustration with mistreatment from various departments at the University of St. Thomas.

Now, with momentum and a collective voice, these students will not be quiet.


Halloween and Cultural Appropriation

Halloweekend approaches, and no, you don’t get a pass to “Put the WOW in pow wow”:


You’re free to dress how you want this Halloween, but you’re not free of the responsibility to respect the cultures of your peers. Not only is it blatant disrespect and negligence of the history of a group of people to misuse cultural symbols for a fun night out (i.e. “Pocahontas” in the image above), it poorly reflects upon you, your peers, and your community.

The #TommiesThinkTwice initiative pushes for UST community members to be mindful of behaviors and beliefs that might be practiced unconsciously which harm underrepresented populations.

This weekend, we ask that you be aware of Halloween costumes that misuse cultural symbols. Think twice about supporting such costumes, and think twice about your intent and the message you’re sending if you do wear a costume inspired by a certain culture. Read this article about Colorado University’s “We’re A Culture, Not a Costume” campaign for this Halloween season, and check out the series of posters being created for it.


Our message is simple: don’t misuse culture for fun. It allows for stereotypes and misunderstandings of others to persist, and it doesn’t make you look good.

If you do feel inclined to correct someone’s misuse of culture, great! But please do not shame people for doing so. You can explain what is wrong about it without attacking a person’s character or embarrassing them.

For tips on how to address cultural appropriation and its distinction from cultural exchange/appreciation, consider looking at these resources:

Come into our office (ASC 224) for Purple Bench this Friday, October 30 at 3 p.m. to further discuss this topic.

Thank you for reading! Be safe this Halloween, think twice about cultural appropriation, and come back soon to get more from Voices of Diversity!



Diversity, Poster contest

2015 Diversity Poster Contest “Embrace Diversity”

2014DiversityPosterContestWinnersLooking for great poster contest entries for 2015! Here is the 2014 winning poster and description.

Raymond Nkwain Kindva – 1st Place

 My poster is titled, Celebrate You…Because You are Diversity because it describes the influence of diversity on me. The poster contains two faces; my mother and I represented respectively by the woman on the left and the boy on the right. Both are looking up at the birds in the sky while the sun, represented by the words “Celebrate You…” radiates the sky and the horizon. This poster describes my feeling about diversity and why I wish to celebrate it.

My aim in designing this poster is to recognize the person who taught me to love my unique talents. This person is my mother – the woman on the left of the poster– who accepted me for who I am and has inspired me to accept others for who they are. She may not be the most educated person in the world but she taught me the power of believing in myself no matter how different I am. The words reflected on her face and mine are words I learned from her; words that did not mean anything to me when growing up. As a boy, I didn’t care much about my own differences but cared way more about how they fit to the world around me. That continued when I was a teenager as I tried to fit into every environment I was in. It led me to self-doubt myself whenever I did something that did not fit the type of environment I was in. Fortunately, my mother always stepped in to challenge my definition of being different and instilled the belief of using my differences to do something positive. My best quote of hers when I was in self-doubt is, “If Neil Armstrong believed we would never one day fly like birds, then he would not have been the first person to walk on the moon!” This quote has always inspired me to look at my uniqueness as a positive and one that could one day benefit the world.

For full detail visit-


Courageous Conversations, Diversity

Point of view by Dr. Calvin Hill UST Diversity Officer- “Diversity tension is inevitable, but we can argue our points responsibly.”

hillOn Thursday February 26, 2015, a group of St. Thomas students courageously organized a die/sit in in the Anderson Student Center. The purpose was to pay respect to the many lives lost to senseless violence in our country within the last year. As a brief recap to name just a few of those we lost: Tamir Rice (age 12) was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, OH in November of 2014; Micheal Brown (age 18) was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, MO in August of 2014; Eric Garner (age 43) died of neck compression from a chokehold at the hands of police in New York, NY July 2014; and most recently, three Muslim students attending the University of North Carolina, Dean Barakat (age 23), Yusor Abu-Salha (age 21), and Razon Abu-Salha (age 19) were shot and killed this past February by a neighbor.

According to student James Mite, President of the Black Empowerment Student Alliance, the protest had multiple goals: (1) It was intended to provide a safe space for students to express themselves, (2) It would allow students to pay respect for lives lost in the Black and Muslim community, and (3) It would build a community across cultural lines. In an email to several members of the community, Mr. Mite noted that his hope was “that students would leave the protest with a better sense of belonging here at St. Thomas.”

I decided to write this brief thought piece after learning about a series of posts to an anonymous social media site. As a diversity educator, I value diversity in all forms, including diversity of thought. Therefore, rather than let what could be an explosive situation go unchecked, I felt that this was a great learning opportunity for our campus community, to “build a community across cultural lines” as Mr. Mite stated as one of his goals for the protest.

February’s UST die/sit in stirred conflicting feelings from across our campus community. Why? My guess is that we had many members of our community examine the protest from their own lenses. The lives lost in the Black and Muslim communities have caused pain and outcry across many sectors of our country. As a Black male, having an understanding of historical oppression, and concerns over issues of trust, especially from those in positions of authority in this country, as well as the knowledge that any of the deaths noted above could easily have been me, a son, brother, father, or partner is frightening. But how could those who have not experienced the world, as I have understand my pain?

Conversely, for those who have grown up experiencing the police (or others in positions of authority) as being there to serve and protect them, how could they understand, that their lived experience interacting with the police is not universal? Arguably, we need to explore how our varied social identities bias how we see each other and the world around us. I write this to note that conflict around issues of diversity is not uncommon, but how we deal with our conflict will dictate the type of learning experience we can take from it.

I see this conflict as an opportunity to explore how our varied lived experience has caused us to think and interact as we do. Over the next several weeks, I will be working with the Division of Student Affairs to organize a series of Courageous Conversations. These conversations will serve as opportunities for us to address issues and learn about each other so that we can grow together as one community. I believe that we have a common interest in valuing each other and our diversity. Let’s make a commitment to challenge ourselves when we turn to the safety of our social identity and do something; let’s not be satisfied with continuing the status quo.

I want to encourage our community not to insult each other, or use personal attacks when we simply don’t understand conflicting realities. As noted above, diversity tension is inevitable, but we can argue our points responsibly.

Calvin R. Hill, Ph.D.
Diversity and Inclusion Officer

University of St. Thomas

Diversity, Heritage Month

Black History is American History

2015BlackHistoryMonthEventsFebruary is a time to remind ourselves of the many and varied contributions African Americans have made to every aspect of the U.S. culture and to celebrate them in conjunction with others. Be it music, science, religion, health, examples and influence from the black experience are present.
Please join Student Diversity and Inclusion Services in celebrating Black History Month this February! The month kicks off with “The Gathering” on Friday, Feb. 6th at 8 p.m. in ASC LL Dance. We once again welcome DJ Enferno for a “Flashback Friday” themed event. Invite students to celebrate the new semester with us by reconnecting with friends and letting loose on the dance floor.
Come to ASC Hearth on Tuesday, Feb. 10th at 4 p.m. for some dialogue and stew! The topic for Culture Stew is natural hair, and discussion will be facilitated by Dr. Buffy Smith, Dr. Todd Lawrence, and Michelle Miller (student). Mixed Blood Theatre will present “AFRICAN AMERICA” in ASC Scooter’s on Wednesday, Feb. 11th at 7 p.m. The play helps immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, and Liberia to connect with and celebrate their heritage as an interracial couple is led by a magical African to a better understanding of the immigrant experience.2015AfricanAmericaScreen
There will be a special menu at T’s in ASC for the week of Feb.16-20 to celebrate Black History Month! Special lunch items will be served from 11a.m.-2 p.m. Our main event this week is a series of slam poetry workshops and performances Feb. 17-20 with help from STAR, BESA, American Culture and Difference, Office of Mission, and the English department. Dr. Todd Lawrence writes:
Nate Marshall is a poet,2015SlamPoetryWeekScreem writer, rapper, educator, and activist from the south side of Chicago. He is author of Blood Percussion and the forthcoming Wild Hundreds. Featured in the award-winning documentary Louder Than a Bomb and the HBO series “Brave New Voices,” Marshall is a Zell Postgraduate Fellow at University of Michigan where he earned an MFA in poetry. He has won many awards, including the 2014 Hurston/Wright Foundation Amistad Award and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from University of Pittsburgh Press.
Michael Mlekoday is the author of The Dead Eat Everything. He won the 2009 National Poetry Slam with the St. Paul team, and returned in 2010 to coach the team to another championship. He has served as Poetry Editor of Indiana Review, and his poems have appeared in Ninth Letter, RHINO, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Anti-, Muzzle Magazine, and other journals.
During their visit, Nate Marshall and Mike Mlekoday will offer poetry workshops so that participating poets can improve their writing and performance skills. Poets will receive personal instruction from two published artists who have extensive experience with performance poetry.

In our final week of celebrating, Dr. Bryana French will lead our Still We Rise series with the Luann Dummer Center for Women. Come discuss the “Intersectionality of Black Women” and enjoy a soul food dinner on Wednesday, Feb. 25th at 5:30 p.m. in the Luann Dummer Center for Women (OEC 103).

Celebration leads to providing experiences that create lasting impressions and knowledge. This month is especially significant to enhance our sense of the differences, sameness, and uniqueness of every individual allowing us to embrace the contributions of all of us in this shrinking society.


Why Diversity Works

2014DiversityWorksWorkshopWhat was once only imaginable — a truly diverse United States population with many employment opportunities— is now a reality. Because of our nation’s current economic standing, more women, along with many other underrepresented groups, are now a part of the workforce.Accepting diversity in the workplace is extremely important and can help generate new ideas, it is important that this acceptance and inclusion begins and flourishes at St. Thomas. Every culture and every background brings new features to the table. As students and professionals, we should explore the advantages of the diversity around us. Learning from and with individuals from diverse backgrounds provide experiences that will us to prosper in a diverse global environment. By doing so, we will be enriched, relatable and successful.
Diversity prepares students for future career success. Successful performance in today’s diverse workforce requires sensitivity to human differences and the ability to relate to people from different cultural backgrounds. America’s workforce is more diverse than at any time in the nation’s history, and the percentage of America’s working-age population comprised of members of minority groups is expected to increase from 34 percent to 55 percent by 2050.
Diversity prepares students for work in a global society. No matter what profession you enter, you’ll find yourself working with employers, employees, coworkers, customers and clients from diverse backgrounds—worldwide. By experiencing diversity in college, you are laying the groundwork to be comfortable working and interacting with a variety of individuals of all nationalities.
Our Diversity Works-Moving Beyond Barriers event will provide an opportunity to hear a panel of UST alumni who will profile their career paths and offer advice to job seeking students from all backgrounds. A question and answer session will follow the program. This event will focus on the ever-changing demographics in the United States and why it is critical that emerging professionals are well equipped to comfortably thrive in a diverse workforce.

Additional information can be found:

Diversity, Heritage Month

Celebrating National Native American Heritage Month 2013

Dream-Catcher-native-americans-34175252-296-337November is a month set aside to explore and acknowledge the experiences and contributions of Native Americans to our nation. It is a commemorative month formed to provide a platform for the indigenous peoples of America to share their history, culture, traditions, music, crafts, dance, and concepts of life. The month dually seeks to recognize Native American contributions and to ensure cross-cultural, educational dialogue between the “First Americans” and the descendants of the myriad of peoples who arrived on the shores of the New World.
SDIS will celebrate on Monday November 10th by bringing to campus Frank Bibeu, a Native American tribal attorney who will be speaking about the Ojibwe and Dakota people in what is now Minnesota and the many signed treaties with the United States. Among these treaties are famous land cession agreements with sovereign American Indian groups. The lecture will explore the Native nations in Minnesota and their history of treaty making with the United States. Information on the event can be found in our web page.
Additional ways to observe and learn more about the richness of the Native American people can be found in the following links:
Here is a  great and useful page that contains links to obtain information on Native American heritage, history and cultural traditions nationally and in Minnesota.

Diversity, Purple Bench

“You, Me, and We” ~ talking and listening to find out about each other at the SDIS purple bench…

purple benchWe are going to try a “What is YOUR story” sharing time at SDIS on Monday afternoons from  2-3:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 1:30-3 p.m. We want you to share your story. SDIS is committed to an inclusive environment for all students. In order for change to occur and advocacy to be effective, it is important to know about the experiences that people have.  We invite you to please come by and share your story, both positive and negative.

Not ready to tell your story? Not sure what to share? Then just come by hang out, listen, and get to know our staff and other UST students.

We will be posting your picture (if you want) under our series #purplebench in our social media! Check out one of our other pics


SDIS at It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending YWCA’s It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race with our Interim Associate Dean of Student in Student Diversity and Inclusion Services, Patricia Conde-Brooks. I had casually worked with YWCA last year as they launched an Unfair Campaign, in Duluth, Minnesota. That campaign in itself is a whole other blog to be. I would encourage you to look it up. Regardless, I went with an open mind and was optimistic.

Yes, it is time to talk. YWCA promoted this event as the largest forum on race in the nation. And it does not stop there. This clip that was shared at the event shed some light on that message. I highly recommend viewing it. My challenge to you echoes the video, Take Action: Be the one!

I’ve returned from the forum with the following thoughts. Always, tell your story. It doesn’t have to be the hardship and depressing plot we may dread to speak. Share the land marks, the success stories and celebrations you have encountered (as a person of color). To be aware. Between 2005 and 2015, Minnesota’s population of color is projected to grow 35% compared to 7% for the white population. Now that’s a thought to hold on to. In addition, that Minnesota ranks lowest in the nation for racial disparities in both education and employment attainment. What does this say about the state in which I just relocated to? What does it say about my community and the future of the world?

Regardless, I enjoyed the Keynote Presentation by Andrés Tapia. He has been one of the leading voices in shaping a contemporary, next-generation approach to diversity and inclusion. He left me with 6 key points:

1. To be a minority, is to be a majority
2. We must own our own biases
3. Share each other’s stories
4. Inclusion is a skill not an attitude
5. Don’t let anyone take away your rights
6. Stand up for the rights of others

Before leaving, I signed up to Become a trained racial justice facilitator. Will you take your racial journey to a new level and spark the conversation of change?


National Native What?

So November is just around the corner. That means most Diversity offices on a college campus are planning for Native Heritage month. I have been working in Multicultural Affairs for over 6 years and in celebrating many heritage months, as most multicultural offices do, I found it confusing when creating a poster for this year’s celebration. In the past, Presidential proclamations have declared the month as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Today, it reads “National Native American Heritage Month.” I have found that over the years, everyone chooses a variety of ways to refer to the November celebration. So who is right? Some choose to call it National American Indian Heritage Month, while others simply prefer Native Heritage Month, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month or in some cases Alaska Native Heritage Month.

Regardless of name preference, there exists a collective understanding and sense of unity around the celebration of Native peoples during the month of November. SDIS will officially be celebrating National Native American Heritage Month on Monday November 11, 2013. With support from UST STAR, this year we have invited, Frank Bibeau to campus. He will discuss how treaties work and how treaties have shaped Minnesota today. Frank Bibeau is a Tribal Attorney with 14 years of experience in Indian Country and Tribal Governments. He primarily works in Minnesota with the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.