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Diversity Symposium: A student's perspective

September 1, 2013

Graduate student Kalyn Stroik is in the 'thick' of helping to plan and organize the 2013 Diversity Symposium. Stroik says the symposium has the potential of calling each of us, individually, to action. 'We're all constantly experiencing diversity of one kind or another," Stroik says. 'It's up to us whether or not we take notice and engage.'

Kalyn Stroik will graduate in the Spring of 2014 with her masters in Student Affairs in Higher Education.

Kalyn Stroik, a graduate student pursuing her masters in Student Affairs in Higher Education, has a weighty responsibility.

As her senior practicum, she’s working with others to help plan Colorado State’s upcoming diversity symposium on September 17-19, 2013.

She spoke with Today @ Colorado State and answered a few questions about the symposium.

Q:  What is the importance of diversity for you, personally?

A:  “Working with students this past year in my program and assistantship has continually reminded me of the importance of diversity. I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from students because of their different identities, experiences, and perspectives.

“Diversity is crucial to growth —growth as an individual, institution, and society. The danger of living without diversity is that we remain stagnant in homogenous communities and lines of thoughts.

“Although being exposed to diversity is perhaps —for all of us —at times uncomfortable, I’ve found that it’s a catalyst for change. That’s because we’re forced to reflect on ourselves. As a result we grow individually and together.

Q: Can you describe a significant event in your life that created an epiphany for you about the importance of diversity?

A: I can’t identify an individual moment. Really, when you think about it, we’re all constantly experiencing diversity of one kind or another. It’s up to us whether or not we take notice and engage.

Q: What would you like CSU students, staff, and faculty to know about the 2013 Diversity Symposium?

A: Diversity is a word that is thrown around a lot on college and university campuses, but what does it really mean? Why is it so important? How does it impact us as individuals? And how do we gain a deep understanding and appreciation for the difference diversity represents?

Every year, Colorado State University sponsors a diversity symposium. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are given the opportunity to present and attend sessions at the symposium, which are all focused around a central theme.

Q: What is the theme of the symposium this year?

This year’s theme is “Experiencing and Understanding Diversity through Culture and Art.” The theme is unique – it’s not about a specific diversity or social justice topic, but rather the experience of diversity through a specific medium.

Quite literally, diversity means difference.  Most of us are surrounded by diversity every day, but despite being around difference, do we actually engage in it? The diversity symposium is a fantastic opportunity to do so through attending sessions, asking questions, thinking critically, trying new activities, understanding their cultural significance, and understanding their impact on our own lives.

Not only is it important that we engage in difference, but it is also crucial that we do. When we learn about others, we learn about ourselves. Our experiences, our stories, our oppression, and our liberation are all connected.

We are all diverse because we are all different. As a society, institution, and group of individuals, we run into trouble because despite everyone having their own story, specific types of stories get most of the air time.

Challenge yourself at the symposium by listening to as many stories as you can and engaging in the stories most of us usually do not hear.

Q:  How can participants support that goal – to invite and pay attention to narratives we haven’t heard before?

A:  At this year’s symposium, many presenters will be sharing their stories. Come and listen. Share your own story, whether through writing, crafting, or performance. Create. Learn how others create.

Learn about the significance of story-telling, the power of documenting monumental moments for civil rights, and activism through art.

Q:  You’ve mentioned the importance of engaging. What do you mean by that?

There’s a phrase, “transgressing through performance,” that you’ll hear during the symposium. By “transgressing” we mean defying, challenging, or stepping across boundaries like racial, gender, and class boundaries.

“Transgressing through performance” then, means following through by taking some action (performing). This might, for example, involve seeking out other perspectives and then listening, thinking, and acting on them.

Q:  What are you challenging yourself and others to do during this year’s symposium?

A:  Engage with the stories of others and learn to let it inform your own story. Experience the strength it takes to tell the story of a culture, a people, an experience and let it fill you with the courage to express your own narrative.

At this year’s symposium, don’t just celebrate diversity or experience diversity – express it!

Contact: Kalyn Stroik