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Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

Native American Heritage Month – Thanksgiving Day

We’re often told that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. What we’re not told is that he was responsible for the colonization of First Nations people, initiation of the transatlantic slave trade, and death of millions by murder and diseases. Many of his actions have lasting affects still apparent today. The U.S. Census stated that in 2014 the median income for American Indian and Alaska Native households was $37,227 compared to $53,657 for the nation as a whole. The Native population also lack educational resources and opportunities. Only 18.5% of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 years and older obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.1% of the overall population (Census Bureau, 2015). In 1992, Berkley, California, was the first city to declare what was once Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day. So far 55 cities have joined the movement and replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day/Native Americans Day, or recognize both. Minneapolis began recognizing Indigenous People’s day in 2014 and St. Paul followed in suit in 2015.

Thanksgiving is an American celebration in giving thanks and sharing a meal with family and friends. The idea of Thanksgiving of Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting at a table sharing meal and giving thanks, has been a story told to us for many years. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry — half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food (Pacific News Services, 1999). The idea that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love between two groups, as it has been represented, is also doubtful by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together less by friendship than by the extreme of their common need. George Washington made his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789. In truth, our first president’s aim was not to rejoice, but pay acknowledgement of the survival of an imperiled nation (Huffington Post, 2011).

In the Native’s version of Thanksgiving, it is a beginning of the end. For the First Nation’s, Thanksgiving is seen as a time in remembering their ancestors, and of mourning for the lives that were lost. In fact, the end times began for Massachusetts Indians several years earlier, when British slaving crews unintentionally introduced smallpox killing over ninety percent of the local population, who lacked antibodies to fight the disease. (Huffington Post, 2011). So in this opportunity on Thanksgiving, it is a chance to give gratitude for this day, as well as reflecting. It is important to continue to educate ourselves on our history, and bring an accurate representation of Native American history into mainstream American culture. As these stories and history creates big impacts to us today, and challenges that the Native American communities faces still today.



Welcome Students – Orientation and Registration!

Understanding Your Story – First Year Student Presentations (Dia Yang)

Summer is coming to an end very soon, and UST is gearing up for orientations for new Tommies the next few weeks. Orientation for new students is a pivotal point in which students learn about what classes they will be taking, who their advisors are, where they will be living, and other viable student services. One of biggest questions every student explores throughout their time in college is “Who am I?” The first year becomes an exploration of trying to identify their passion, their personal identities, their purpose, and understanding the new people, information, and challenges they will encounter.

SDIS will be hosting a presentation for first year students called “Understanding Your Story”, giving students a glimpse of things they may encounter within their first year of college. This presentation will focus on the single story concept – the single story students learned in their 18 years of education, and the danger of one story. First year students will watch a snippet of Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk “Danger of a Single Story”, in which speaks of understanding stories by shifting your paradigm to another narrative. During the presentation students will be able to discuss single stories they know and how this can impact their perception of the world. Students will also be able to identify the complexities of their identities and understand the multiple stories that they can expect to encounter during their time here at UST.

The University of St. Thomas mission speaks of advancing the common good, and this is only possible when the individual feels they are a part of their community, interacting with – and growing within – that community. The presentation will conclude that as first year students begin to understand their stories within UST, in combination with the things they learn in college, they will grow into being who they are and embracing the diversity around them academically and socially. This transformation is a vital and continual process and cannot be feared, as this growth is needed in order to adapt to the changing world.


2017 Celebrating Black History Month by Guest Blogger Mosope Ani

Student Diversity and Inclusion Services is happy to share Mosope Ani’s perspective on the celebration of Black History Month

In the month of February, we celebrate Black History Month form February 1st – February 28th. The month-long celebration honors influential African Americans and recognizes the important role that African Americans have played in U.S. history.
Black History Month was originally known as Negro History Week. It started in 1926 and was meant to celebrate of black Americans while also bringing awareness to black identities. Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week along with other prominent African Americans. This recognition was a result of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), which was founded by Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland. Woodson was unhappy about the underrepresentation of African Americans in American history, and this led to the birth of the association. The organization was established for the promotion of African American history and describes its purpose to, “research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.” ASNLH is dedicated to the celebration of past and present African Americans while also telling their story. Negro History week was held on the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass.
The event inspired many schools and organizations to host their own celebrations, and in the decades that followed, mayors of many cities began issuing yearly proclamations recognizing Negro History Week. Negro History Week eventually became Black History Month when it was officially recognized by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976. This recognition was, as President Ford said, “the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Over the month of February, many events are held that highlight various aspects of black culture. Some of these events include spoken word performances, musical performances of various genres, influential films, museum showcases and panel discussions.
At the University of St. Thomas, SDIS, BESA and DAB have put together a series of events this month that give insight to the rich culture of African Americans. There will be a poetry slam, panel discussions and a Black History Month Dinner. These events are cosponsored by various groups on campus such as the Luann Dummer Center for Women, the English Department, and the Office of Mission. We urge you to attend some of the many events being held. Also, be sure to stop by the O’Shaughnessy-Frey Library to see the display with featured works, and visit T’s for a special menu from February 20-24.
This is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans to our everyday lives, and it is also a time to be aware of the issues that affect many African Americans today.
Happy Black History month! We hope you all get to experience and learn something new this month.
A detailed list of events can be found here


Pride Week kicks off October 10th

pride-week-2016The weeklong celebration is hosted by SDIS, OutLaw! QSA, and DAB. It’s a collaborative effort to affirm the LGBT+ community by providing recreational, social and support services, and learning opportunities to continue fostering a positive campus climate.
Pride Week is a celebration of identity and expression. Many individuals come to campus without a lot exposure to the LGBT+ community. Pride Week is a platform to engage that learning opportunity and, overall, celebrate diversity.
University campuses vary widely in whether, how, and when they organize LGBT Pride observances. At St. Thomas, Pride Week takes place in the Fall. Our activities include speakers, panel discussions, movies, and a celebratory dance.
Throughout the week, there will be a large number of opportunities for students to get involved, this is the link to events.

Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

St. Thomas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic-2016Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us; the celebration begins on September 15 and is set to continue for a full month until October 15. The purpose of the celebratory month is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of both Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to observe their native heritage and contributing culture. The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the United States, the month long observation began in 1968, and always begins in the fall of each year. Originally the celebration was not a month long; in fact it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on August 17 of that year.

September 15 was not a date chosen at random; in fact the date contains a large amount of significance for multiple Hispanic nations. According to, the date is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted to celebrate the fundamental contributions Hispanics have made to the growth, vitality and culture of North America.

This year at St. Thomas we once again celebrate and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the month-long celebration, details are available on our website.

As a Latina I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that “mi gente” are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments. This is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we extend a “bienvenida” to you as you help us celebrate. Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative. Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate what each of our cultures bring to the St. Thomas community. I encourage all students, faculty, staff and the greater campus community to join us in celebrating  ‘la cultura Latina’ through all the events and programs on campus. We are very excited for this year’s events!


“You Spoke, We Listened”

ncoreThis summer, the news has been filled with examples of many of the uncertainties and problems that plague our world today. What is the message of Black Lives Matter? How do we uproot the racism embedded in our justice system? What does immigration reform mean? Is anonymous speech good for society; is it destructive?

In order to engage students on some of these issues, SDIS provided an opportunity for all incoming first year students to share the causes they are willing to SPEAK UP about. Incoming first-year students watched “The Danger of Silence”, a TED Talk video by Clint Smith, during a breakout session at Orientation and Registration led by SDIS. After viewing the video, students had an opportunity to send an anonymous text message to a digital bulletin board, where they named a cause that they are passionate about. After meeting with 36 different groups of students over nine Orientation days, we saw that the following topics were the most oft-submitted as ones that the students want to speak up about.

1. Immigration
2. Black Lives Matter/Police Brutality
3. LGBTQ rights
4. Women’s rights
5. Islamophobia/Religious freedom

To respond to and generate discussion around events that matter to our students, SDIS will using these themes to help us frame our conversations during our weekly Purple Bench discussions on Friday afternoons. Purple Bench discussions are designed to encourage participants to step outside of their comfort zones, offer their opinions on challenging topics, and to not shy away from asking questions. No reading or research is required in advance at Purple Bench; it is a forum where people can talk about issues they care about, and a space where one need not be an expert in order to participate. We believe it is important to cultivate conversations on important issues that challenge us, so that we can learn from one another and become more familiar with having constructive dialogue with people who may hold and express different points of view.

During our annual Welcome Back to Campus social (September 9th 1-4 p.m.) we will provide an opportunity for the campus community to suggest other important issues we should be talking about during the upcoming school year. We really want an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to interact on the important social issues of our time, and we will continue to listen to our students and shape our weekly discussions to address the issues that matter to them.


On being American: Journalist, filmmaker–and undocumented immigrant–Jose Antonio Vargas to speak at St. Thomas

JAV new 4x6The University of St. Thomas Lectures Committee presents a lecture by Pulitzer Prize winner Jose Antonio Vargas on Tuesday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in Woulfe alumni Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

A Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist, acclaimed documentary filmmaker, and founder of Define and #EmergingUS, Vargas seeks to elevate the conversation around race, immigration, identity, and citizenship in a multiracial America.

After “outing” himself as an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times, Vargas was featured on the cover of TIME magazine as the face of the conversations about immigration in America, and has testified before the US Senate. His film about his experiences, Documented, has won several awards and recognition by multiple film festivals and associations and will be shown April 21 at 5:30 p.m. MCH 100 as part of Diversity Dialogues. (You MUST REGISTER to attend… Register now in ASC 224 and receive your FREE t-shirt!) View the trailer for Documented here.

In July 2015, he produced and starred in White People, a film for the MTV “Look Different” campaign about being young and white in America.

Vargas’ further contributions to the conversation include Define American, a non-profit media and culture organization that seeks to elevate the conversation around immigration and citizenship in America, and#EmergingUS, a multimedia news platform launched in 2015 in partnership with the Los Angeles Times, focusing on race, immigration, and the complexities of multiculturalism.

In addition to his work on immigration matters, Vargas has had a prolific journalism career, including work for The New Yorker, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, among others; he has covered a wide range of topics, including tech and video game culture, HIV/AIDS, the 2008 presidential campaign, and an acclaimed profile of Mark Zuckerberg. Vargas was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, and his 2006 series on HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., inspired a feature-length documentary — The Other City — which he co-produced and wrote. In 2007, the daily journal Politico named him one of the 50 Politicos to Watch.



A interview with Dr. Hill UST Diversity Officer by Loïc Attikossie


LoicHill2In Dr. Calvin Hill’s view, this is the perfect time to be the Diversity Officer at St. Thomas.
The University of St. Thomas recently hired a new Diversity Officer. He went through several formal interviews during the process and now that he is on campus, we sent of our Public Relations intern, Loic Attikossie to drop by and have a chat with Dr. Calvin Hill. We wanted to provide the student with an opportunity to learn a few things about Dr. Hill. Here’s what Hill had to say about the initiatives he is leading at UST:

Loic: What drew you to St. Thomas?
Dr. Hill:
That’s a good question. I’ve heard that one a lot. For me, I was looking for a career change. And I had a number of campuses I was looking at. One of my goals was to find an urban location. One of the things I liked about St. Thomas was the proximity to the St. Paul/Minneapolis urban core.
I grew up in the Dallas Fort Worth area, and as well as did my graduate work at Howard University in Washington DC so I really wanted get to an area that had what I would consider a vibrant cultural center. What I found is that this is an institution that fits that niche. When I came to the Twin Cities in November, not only was it visually stimulating when I walked around campus, but as I got an opportunity to interview and meet people, I just felt like this was a place where I would feel comfortable as well as a place where I could make a difference.
Loic: What did you major in?
Dr. Hill: As an undergraduate, I was a history and political science double major. My goal back then was to go law school, but then I did an internship my junior and then I didn’t changed my mind. I had to revamp myself. I did my master’s degree in Student Personal Administration, which is similar to the Educational Leadership, and Student Affairs program that St. Thomas has here. And I did my PhD in the area that I love which is political science. I wanted to study and research what was considered a hard discipline. And I also wanted to go to a Historical Black College ((HBCU.)

Loic: Describe your job in one sentence
Dr. Hill: I can probably do that in a few words. It is to create community.
I think about diversity and it’s about creating a climate that’s going to allow everyone to be successful and creating a climate where everyone is going to talk to each other. If you don’t know your neighbor then you’re not in a community.

Loic: What was the path to your current position?

Dr. Hill: I sort of came to diversity by default. My first job was an admission counselor for minority students at a predominantly white school. Yet, I was fortunate to have had great mentors along the way. One recommended I do my masters in student affairs. I knew when I was in that program I wanted to give back to students who had similar experiences to mine while trying to complete their education. I knew the trials and tribulations of being the only person to look like myself in a classroom and feeling like I had to give 120%. So for me going into D & I was not necessarily intentional. It was a path based on a passion, a need to give back.
Loic: What was the best advice you received along the way?
Dr. Hill: The best advice I had along the way was to go to Historical Black College. One of my mentors was Dr. Edward Butler at Emporia State University in Kansas, who had gotten me there for my Master’s program. I think Dr. Butler got tired of me complaining about being on a majority campus. As I was looking at doctorial programs, he told me, “Do something different do something for yourself.” I was admitted to the PhD program at Howard University. I flourished in DC. If you haven’t’ had a black college experience, in my opinion it is definitely worthwhile.

Loic: What are some initiatives will you be working this year?
Dr. Hill: One of those will be staff hiring. I want to make sure all of our students see staff members that are diverse; diverse faculty, and diverse individuals in leadership roles on campus.
We’ll be also looking at our recruitment process around creating a more diverse student body. We want to diversify our student population. That’s not just in reference in the terms in race and ethnicity. We’re going to be talking about how students are diverse from social economical differences, from ideological differences, regional differences. So we want to bring people to this campus that are diverse from all dimensions of human diversity. When we go into the world of work, we going to run into people that are different from ourselves. The more we can make St. Thomas a microcosm of the world, more specifically, the United States, the better prepared our graduates will be.

Loic: What do you value as a leader and diversity officer?
Dr. Hill: One thing I value is community. I can’t do my job alone. If you expect one person to come into this role and snap his/her fingers and make this a diverse campus, then you are wrong. My job is to serve as someone that can collaborate with different offices, students and create a climate that brings about increased civility and increased aspects of inclusion.
Loic: Has anything surprised you about UST so far?
Dr. Hill The level of openness to diversity. Right now, I’m meeting with what you would consider “the choir”. You know, the people that see the ultimate vision. I think that on every campus there are people who are maybe reluctant to change or are questioning perhaps why we need to change but I have not run into that. Everyone has been really open and has been talking about how diversity is absolutely critical to St. Thomas’ success and to its long-term longevity.

Loic: Is there anything else you would like the student body to know about you?
Dr. Hill: Oh my gosh, as you will see, today is bow tie Wednesdays. I know you guys have Tommie Tuesdays but I’m trying to bring to the institution but I’m trying to bring bow tie Wednesdays to St. Thomas. That’s sort of my trademark.
I’m a very open person and I want students to see me across campus or come into my office and feel like they can talk to me. I want to be here for all students, majority students and students from diverse backgrounds alike. You know we’re here for students. I can’t do my job if I don’t understand the student’s experience. I want students at any point and time to come say hi. Don’t hesitate to raise concern towards things that you feel need to change.

Loic: I was going to mention something about the bow tie, I like it.

Dr. Hill: Well thank you

Dr. Hill will be visiting with students during SDIS Purple Bench time on Thursday February 19 from 2-3 p.m. Please drop by and continue the conversation!

Interview conducted by Loïc Attikossie



J-Term Book Club 2015-Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

piper5We would like to share the discussions questions for “Orange is the New Black”

Week 2
1. Table introductions:
• Who is your favorite character, and why?
2. Summarize key points from this week’s chapters that outline Piper’s story.

3. On pages 78-79, Piper says:
“…it was a clear demonstration that I ‘had it like that’ on the outside, a network of people who had both a concern for me and the time and money to buy me books…I saw that some of the women had little or no resources from the outside to help make their prison life livable.”
• What other examples of social capital have you noticed in the book?
• Can you think of a way that people without social capital are affected outside of prison? At UST?

4. Piper references conditions in county jails on page 125, calling them “universally nasty, full of drunks, prostitutes, and junkies.” She goes on to say that conditions were better at Danbury, a federal prison.
• Piper says it costs $30,000/year to incarcerate a prisoner (p. 138). Given the descriptions of Danbury’s conditions, does this surprise you? Why or why not?

5. One of the guards at Danbury was prosecuted for sexually abusing prisoners and served one month in jail (p. 130). Does the punishment fit the crime? How are perceptions of power-based violence similar or different outside prison?

Week 3

Piper refers to Danbury as a “Human Warehouse” in chapter 10. She later says, “A lengthy term of community service working with addicts on the outside would probably have driven the same truth home and been a hell of a lot more productive for the community,” (p. 180)

What do you think? Was it necessary for piper to go to prison?

Think back to our conversation about social capital—Piper mentions that she had a job lined up for her when she left prison.  Do you think this is common for inmates?

What are some challenges you can think of for women who are trying to rejoin society after imprisonment?

How might new policies keep these women from returning to prison?

Piper has a realization of the consequences of her actions which led her to Danbury.  She looks at Allie and Pennsatuckey, who suffer from addiction, and acknowledges the role she had in others’ addictions.

    • Do you think she feels real remorse?
    • Do you hold her, and other suppliers, accountable?
  • Our presenter and contact information- Sarah King –MnCoSA Volunteer Coordinator –

Week 4


  • Discuss some of the connections that Piper made with the other inmates at Danbury. What does she learn from them?
  • Which of the other stories that were shared over the course of the memoir did you find particularly intriguing?Piper says, “I was eager to offer what I had, which was more than I had realized. Judging others held little appeal to me now, and when I did it, I regretted it.” (Ch. 15)
    • What other ways did piper transform during her time in prison?
  • After reading Orange Is the New Black, do you think our prison system is successful? Do you think its dramatic growth over the last thirty years—nearly 400 percent more Americans in prison—is a good thing for the country?
    • Why or why not?
    • What do you think the author is trying to accomplish by telling her story?
  • What are some questions that you have for piper Kerman when she comes to campus on March 25th?






Dear White People Review By: James Mite-Excel! Research Scholar

dear white peopleJustin Simien, in his debut feature film Dear White People, challenges the flowery notion that we live in a color-blind and post-racial paradise in the age of Obama. With a great deal of flair and wit, plus equal parts humor and drama, Simien aggressively toys with the belief that racial tensions have suddenly disappeared since the election of America’s first black president, in fact as Kurt (Kyle Shelling) so graciously puts it “the hardest thing to be in America is a middle class white man.” This indie film addresses racial tensions and misunderstandings in a similar fashion as Spike Lee did with his early films School Daze and Do The Right Thing. In his debut, Justin Simien uses his excellent writing and awfully direct dialogue to approach these subtleties and micro-aggressions of society in regards to race, class, and sexuality. Simien sought out to tackle issues of identity, race, homophobia, and many more from the perspectives of four middle and upper-middle class black students.
Following the unanticipated election of Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring filmmaker and DJ, as head of a traditionally black residence hall, a culture war between the privilege students and the black students erupts on the campus of Winchester University, a fictional Ivy-league university. Sam leverages her popularity as host of the provocative radio show “Dear White People” to challenge the somewhat uncomfortable truths about the interactions between whites and blacks. While the former head-of-house Troy Fairbanks (Brandon Bell), son of the dean of students, decides to disobey his father’s wishes by applying to join the staff of Pastiche, the college’s influential humor magazine, Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams), a gay aspiring journalist with an awesomely exotic afro, is recruited by school’s lily-white and well connected newspaper to go undercover and write about black culture, a subject which he knows little about. Coco Conners on the other hand, a “nose-job” (assimilationist) and aspiring reality TV star, takes advantage of the controversy on campus in hope to earn a spot on the up and coming reality TV show “Black Face/White Place.” The film’s climatic ending is highlighted at Pastiche’s outrageous annual Halloween party, and this year’s “unleash your inner Negro” theme causes a huge race “riot” at Winchester, ultimately dividing the campus in two.
Dear White People is more about the struggles black students on predominately white campuses have with defining their identities in a society inflicted by the disease of reality TV and cultural appropriation, and less of an open letter to throw shade on white people for their hypocrisies (in regards to race relations). The film’s ending sheds light on the recent outbreaks of racist-themed parties on college campuses across America with hopes to raise awareness about such issues. In the context of a prestigious predominately white college campus, Dear White People is simply an exploration of white privilege and the difficulties of “otherness” that many black students experience. This film is truly a great conversation starter that delivers a thought provoking subject, and successfully pokes fun at our guilty obsession with race.