Student Ambassadors Promote Diversity

Aaron Krish

As a means to promote diversity throughout the residence halls and the entire campus, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Residential Living has developed a program that recruits students to plan and implement diversity-related events and programs.

“It’s a leadership program, and these students receive training and the opportunity to grow in these positions,” said Mary Duckworth, Program and Assessment Coordinator for Residential Living.

Diversity Ambassadors, or DAs, are selected based on their high school experiences, leadership and interest in UWSP. General eligibility classifications are pulled from a state program called the Lawton Grant. First-year students receive a free room in the residence halls and have the opportunity to earn a $4000 grant towards their studies.

Today, the program has evolved into a two-year program. There are two DAs assigned to each hall where second year students mentor the first years. DAs are also actively involved within their hall governments and through organizations around campus.

“You really get to know a lot of different people. I make a conscious effort to teach or be the voice and talk to people about getting to know others that are different than them,” said Diversity Ambassador, Yomary Velez. “It’s the experience of having the opportunity to talk and teach about issues that concern other people.”

Programming requirements are different with every hall and each individual. Both Velez and the Burroughs Hall DA, Cornealius Cook, are deeply involved with their respective halls and with organizations on campus. Cook explains a program he put on with residents in Burroughs.

“I did a program called ‘True Colors’. Basically, you break yourself into four colors and get rid of your insecurities. People are scared of their insecurities. The colors bring out the positives in a person,” Cook said.

Cook explained that he feels many people on the UWSP campus are from smaller towns and want to stay away from inclusivity and diversity issues because they do not want to be seen as racist or as someone who offends anyone. Velez explained her role in this situation.

“We expose people to new things and teach aspects of multiculturalism, racism, sexism and homophobia,” Velez said. “When people think diversity, they think black, white, Asian, etc., but it’s so much more than race.”

Both DAs have similar experiences with being involved on campus. Cook is active in the Black Student Union, SGA and multiple other organizations. He is currently working with Ron Strege, Director for Diversity and College Access to create campus wide programs to promote diversity.

“I’m forced to step out and get involved. I give students a chance to talk about these topics in an open setting,” Cook said. “It’s a great experience to think about yourself, but also about others.”

Velez is currently working on Cultural Blends, a program featured in the Brewhaus, which deals with expression through language. She explained that something has more significance if it comes from your language or how you like to express yourself.

“Take advantage of the diversity that surrounds you. Get to know more people. Understand why people think the way they do,” Velez said. “I like to get people to think beyond themselves and those like them by having a basic conversation.”

The program has been around for a number of years, but new changes are being made each year to benefit the campus and the students involved. With the major push for diversity and inclusivity on campus, DAs will continue to be advocates on the issues students face.

“I believe very strongly in this program. I see students find their voice on campus, and I’m excited to see this evolve into something bigger,” Duckworth said.

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