UW-W community focus on cultural engagement

Students and faculty engage in table talks concerning gender and sexual identity

Carina Lopez, Lifestyle Editor

The 2020 Diversity Forum continued to run its second event of the day with a student-involved cultural conversation on Feb 25. consisting of open table conversation, allowing students to engage in a safe discussion. The event allowed students to share their different experiences and opinions surrounding culture, gender and sexuality.

The event involved students sitting around tables and answering honestly to questions that were given by a facilitator. The questions were split into 3 tiers giving everyone a chance to share their answers in a timely manner. This was a time where students were learning more about people’s beliefs without judgment.

The event was hosted by the joint efforts of Ozalle Toms, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Diversity, Engagement and Success, and Anjie Kokan, English Language Academy Coordinator and Instructor. They monitored the event and directed students towards a healthy conversation.

“We all come from different cultures, different walks of life, different experiences, and it’s great to capitalize on those experiences. It is a great way to grow our campus, our community, and also a great way to get to know each other. It is a very important skill we all need. We need to have these courageous conversations on our campus,” said Toms.

It was made well known that the point of these conversations was to have them freely without criticism and give students a safe place to engage in them. The topics went into depth about gender norms, identity, topics pertaining to that context and personal experiences. It was also permitted to pass on questions that people did not feel comfortable sharing.

“Where do you go to discuss these topics that you’re curious about? Using the Diversity Forum is great because it expands that opportunity to more people,” said Kokan.

The event was not just a platform for what could sometimes be a hard conversation, it was also a way to bring people together.

“Cultural Conversation started as a way to give an opportunity to international students and domestic students to come together, learn about each other, and make new friends. We noticed a lot of times people didn’t have that opportunity, but we set up an event where people could come in and meet somebody from a country where they have not met somebody before,” said Kokan.

Students enjoyed this event and took a lot away from it as well. Calah Williams was amongst those students that actively participated in the conversation. Williams was one of the facilitators that started the conversations.

“I think it is important to have these conversations because some people are just not knowledgeable of all the different aspects of our identities that exist. It’s eye-opening to see the different experiences that everybody has regardless of race, gender, and ethnicity. To be able to come together and have a collective conversation not only does it help people learn, but it also provides a new lens for people to view from,” said Williams.