Student groups bring diversity to UWRF
November 16, 2006
"Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.”
Though the author of this saying is unknown, Multicultural Advisor Linda Alvarez said she does know what is behind the efforts of the multicultural student organizations to bring diversity to UW-River Falls.
“Leadership, definitely,” said Alvarez, adding the students she works with are “just incredible leaders” who bring “a whirlwind of creativity and energy” to the multicultural organizations.
Led by UWRF students, the five groups include the Asian American Student Association (AASA), Black Student Union (BSU), Community Action Theatre Troupe (CATTS), Latino Student Organization (LSO) and Native American Council (NAC).
Though increasing diversity is a focus of these groups, BSU President Anthony Anderson said promoting different cultures is a responsibility.
“The main reason that we are doing more things is because there isn’t a lot of diversity out there,” Anderson said. “Somebody has to step up and do something about it.”
The 19-year-old freshman said he is hoping his group’s efforts will make UWRF more appealing to students of all races.
“There isn’t a lot of minorities out here,” Anderson said. “We want to bring them here.”
The BSU is not alone in these efforts.
In his first semester as AASA president, Matt Pelot is working with his group to bring multiple cultures to the UWRF campus.
Pelot, a fourth-year student, said the six goals of the organization are to “promote awareness about Asian cultures; provide a social and academic community for students; educate the campus, community and ourselves; build leadership and collaboration; advocate diversity; and have fun.”
To accomplish these goals, AASA has spent the semester working with UWRF students.
Through events such as the Multicultural Welcome Picnic, Halloweekend Dance, annual egg roll sale and the Nov. 9 Cultural Fest, Pelot has made one key observation about the campus.
“As for the receptiveness of the student body to increasing diversity awareness, I think that our student body is pretty much open to it,” he said.
UWRF junior Teresa Aviles is one student who is open to the idea of campus diversity.
While the 20-year-old said she is not familiar with each organization, she said they seem to be promoting themselves effectively.
“I do think they do a good job making themselves stand out,” she said. “I’ve seen egg roll stands trying to raise money, and yesterday [Nov. 7] there was the Hmong information wall in the Student Center.”
Efforts such as these to raise diversity awareness are a positive sign in the journey to make UWRF a more multicultural campus, Aviles said.
“Even when there are advertisements, flyers and information walls, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people will take the time to read them and understand the particular source of media,” she said. “The only way to get people informed about the different cultures and races and ethnicities on our campus is to talk about it.”
Along with Aviles’ opinion that discussing diversity is important to UWRF, BSU Advisor Tyra Nelson said there is another aspect in increasing multicultural awareness.
“Part of what contributes is the coverage of the Voice,” Nelson said, adding this year’s newspaper is helping to make sure “voices of color are heard.”
Student Voice Editor Helen Clarke seems to share Nelson’s view.
Clarke said that while she is glad the additional coverage is garnering good reviews from diversity groups, the change in coverage was not accidental.
“It was a priority of mine to cover more diversity orgs and student issues in general,” she said. “I think they have been an underreported part of the student body, but my main drive is because so many of the diversity orgs are incredibly active and popular on campus.”
While prominence is an important aspect to news coverage, Clarke said there is another benefit to additional multicultural stories.
“I ... do hope that diversity continues to grow at UWRF, and this is one way to support that,” she said.
Though UWRF multicultural organizations are all based on campus, their efforts can have a worldwide reach.
The NAC and CATTS organizations are spending the holiday season working on Operation Christmas Child.
NAC President Trista Maulson said the project aims to “send shoe boxes filled with toys, etc., to children all over the world who are poverty stricken.”
Maulson said she is also hoping some of the boxes will go to “poor Indian reservations in the United States.”
With UWRF’s multicultural organizations working from a campus to a world level, Anderson’s dream for the future of BSU isn’t farfetched.
“We look forward to having a great year this year,” he said. “It will be even better next year.”
For information on any of the multicultural organizations, contact Linda Alvarez in the Academic Success Center at 425-3531.