Friday, August 28, 2015

Diversity Dialogues talk of campus at Cuyamaca College

Communication across cultures. Diversity and social justice. The worldwide struggle for African liberation.  Fostering engagement among college men of color. Understanding LGBTQIA issues.

These topics are on tap for fall 2015 at Cuyamaca College’s Diversity Dialogues, a series of workshops focusing on a variety of diversity awareness and social justice issues. 

The typically hour-long workshops have become well-established venues for discussions and exercises centered on topics like race relations and student equity. This semester’s seven workshops are free and open to the public.

The workshops kick off with “Communication Across Cultures,” from 1-2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in Room I-209 in the student center.

Presented by Heather Belk, who teaches communications courses in the Department of Communication and Theater at Point Loma Nazarene University, and is also the director of Associated Students at the University of California, San Diego, the workshop focuses on the impact of culture on communication and developing skills to successfully communicate in diverse settings.

“Diversity and Social Justice,” presented by Grace Bagunu from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.  Wednesday, Sept. 23, in Room I-207. In this highly interactive workshop, participants will learn about social justice-related concepts, as well as effective communication skills when working in diverse groups. Bagunu, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego, facilitates seminars on communication and leadership skills at UCSD.

“Understanding Diversity Through Mediation and Personal Narratives,” set for 10:30-11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, in Room C-145 of the library, will explore personal narratives to better understand the meaning and importance of multicultural/diversity competence.  Presenter Jacelyn Pacheco will teach mediation techniques to properly handle conflict when addressing diversity issues.  Pacheco has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UCLA and a master’s in postsecondary educational leadership with an emphasis in student affairs from San Diego State University.  She is currently pursuing her doctorate in higher education from the joint doctoral program with Claremont Graduate University and SDSU.

                “Day in Solidarity with African People: Reparations for Stolen Black Lives” is a 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 6 presentation in the Performing Arts Center featuring Omali Yeshitela, leader of the African Socialist International.  He will discuss how whites and other allies can support the struggle of the black community.

Born as Joseph Waller in 1941 in St. Petersburg, Florida, Yeshitela led a group of young African people into St. Petersburg City Hall in December 1966 and tore down a mural that had hung for 30 years, which he and his followers viewed as racist and demeaning. Yeshitela served two years in prison, after which he organized the African People’s Socialist Party, which built the Uhuru Movement, a political organization which advocates the economic and political liberation of black Africans.

“Creating Conditions that Foster Engagement Among College Men of Color” is set for 1-2:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in I-207 in the Student Center, and focuses on the question of how educators make students feel welcome to engage. Led by San Diego State University professors Frank Harris and Luke Wood, the presentation will highlight barriers that impede student engagement, particularly among historically under-represented and underserved students.

Harris’ research focuses on issues concerning college men and masculinities, gendered trends in postsecondary learning environments, and student development in higher education. Woods’ research focuses on community colleges, specifically in the areas of ethical leadership and decision-making, black male achievement, and leadership development.

Harris and Wood return to Cuyamaca College Wednesday, Oct. 21, to lead “Counseling and Advising Men of Color in Community College,” set for 2-3:15 p.m. in Room I-207 in the Student Center. Their presentation focuses on the importance of counseling and advising to the success of community college students, particularly those who have been historically under-represented and underserved in education. The pair will propose and discuss counseling and advising strategies that have proven effective in serving community college men of color equitably and responsibly.

The Diversity Dialogues close Tuesday, Nov. 3, with “An Overview of the Safe Zones Program” from 11 a.m.-noon in Room I-207 in the Student Center, where presenters Mariah Gonzalez-Meeks and Lauren Vaknin will provide an overview of training materials used, as well as sample activities for campus safe zones. The safe zones training program brings awareness of LGBTQIA issues and provides insight into improving the campus climate.

Gonzalez-Meeks is a history instructor at Cuyamaca College and also teaches in the Women’s Studies Department at SDSU. Her research and teaching focuses on women’s history, Mexican and Mexican-American history, as well as U.S. history with an emphasis on under-represented groups. Vaknin is the associate dean of student affairs at Cuyamaca College.

Vaknin developed Diversity Dialogues in spring 2011, initially offering three workshops that drew a total of about 50 students. These days, about 250 people – mostly students -- attend the workshops each year.

“Cuyamaca College takes pride in its diverse population and initiatives like our Diversity Dialogues help promote a philosophy of inclusion and engagement,” said Interim President Wei Zhou. “This campus is a microcosm of our society – it is our responsibility as educators to increase awareness of different cultures, opinions and perspectives.”

Students who attend at least three of the fall and spring semester workshops earn a Diversity and Leadership certificate and will be recognized at a student leaders’ reception in May.

New initiatives

Another initiative being introduced this semester is the Cross-Cultural Center, an idea proposed by a former student body president. An office in the student center now houses the center with the purpose of serving as a space to benefit both the college and the community. The center will serve as a space both to hold diversity programs and for students to gather, particularly culturally-based student organizations, said Mariah Moschetti, current president of the Associated Student Government of Cuyamaca College.

“The ASGCC hopes the center will soon serve as a bastion for cultural awareness and diversity both on campus and the community as a whole,” Moschetti said.

Cuyamaca College will also begin offering weeklong, online seminars starting in September on improving the educational experience of men of color at the East County college.

The college is encouraging all members of the campus community – faculty, staff, administrators, tutors and students – to participate in “Teaching Community College Men of Color,” a five-day series of activities including lectures, live virtual sessions, discussion boards, and readings provided by the Center for Organizational Responsibility and Advancement. CORA is a San Diego-based group of academic researchers and faculty with a mission of supporting educators serving under-represented students. It is led by SDSU professors Frank Harris III and Luke Wood, two Diversity Dialogues presenters.

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