OMA aims to broaden horizons with “Diversify Your Mind” series

Naveed Islam

Lawrence University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs challenges students to “Diversify Your Mind” with events meant to engage, entertain and educate the campus community on issues concerning diversity.
“We are offering a wide variety of activities for students to participate in,” said Assistant Dean of Students for Multicultural Affairs Pa Lee Moua. “They are all great opportunities to broaden your perspective and become more involved in dealing with and aware of these issues.”
In this year’s series, OMA is collaborating with the campus life staff, academic departments and various groups in the Appleton community to host forums, invite speakers, listen to music and sample cuisine from around the world.
OMA has been active for over 10 years, opening its doors in the ’90s with a small part-time staff that worked out of one office. “The campus evolved greatly over the years and so did Lawrence’s student population,” noted Ormsby Residence Hall Director and Diversity Center Programs Coordinator Rose Wasielewski.
Continued Wasielewski, “Issues of culture, ethnicity and sexual orientation became more relevant in a more diverse student body. We’re still in one office but it’s a much bigger operation now.”
The Multicultural Affairs office, located in the Diversity Center on 207 S. Meade Street, hosted its first Open House Ice Cream Social Sept. 16 as part of the “Diversify Your Mind” series and introduced students to the various resources they have available – including meeting rooms, books and films on diversity issues and a Nintendo Wii.
The Community Connections Fair, held in the Esch Hurvis Room Sept. 22, provided students with an opportunity to meet Appletonians engaged in community development. Representatives from Harmony Café, the Boys and Girls Club, Harbor House and the Appleton Mayor’s Office were eager to reach out to students and collaborate with groups on campus.
The OMA staff will continue to support student clubs and organizations in planning events throughout the year. “We have a student worker who is in touch with the clubs and groups on campus,” said Moua. “Our office is very much connected with student organizations as well as with members of the Appleton community.”
The staff members encourage students to use OMA to help publicize on a bigger scale and to form partnerships with organizations outside of the Lawrence bubble.
In addition to helping students get better acquainted with resources on and off-campus, the “Diversify Your Mind” series has included events that celebrated cultural diversity.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs partnered with the Conservatory of Music to present New York’s Near Eastern Music Ensemble as part of the World Music Series. The group, comprised of musicians from around the Arab world, performed an eclectic repertoire of Near Eastern music at Harper Hall Sept. 27.
Nationally-acclaimed spoken-word artist Ise Lyfe performed “Who’s Krazy?” a one-man play that follows the life of a marketing executive named Milton Victor who sells poisonous substances to African-Americans. The show that garnered raved reviews when it first premiered at the National Black Theater Festival in 2007 was well attended by members of the Lawrence community.
Students, faculty and staff celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month Oct. 6 with dinner at the Diversity Center featuring authentic Hispanic dishes. The festivities continued with “American Sueno,” a play from the international touring company Teatro Milagro, about the difficulties of attaining the American dream.
Fall term will conclude with a celebration of Native American Heritage month and the Identity Forum Series. The first, called “Digging In,” was held Oct. 18 and focused specifically on the different meanings of the term “diversity.”
“We are aiming for a more casual talk rather than a formal discussion of these issues in the Identity Forum Series,” said Moua. “The speakers will bring their different backgrounds and perspectives to the topic and be able to connect with those in attendance.”
The second forum will be held Nov. 15 at the Wriston Auditorium and will focus on topics concerning sex and religion
“The format of a series lays things out for people and makes the topics accessible to students who attend,” said Wasielewski. “Our upcoming Sex/Religion forum will features students and staff sharing personal stories so it’s a chance for everyone to talk and have a real discussion about these issues.”
OMA encourages students to attend their events, as prizes are being offered to students who went to all 10 including $100 in cash and gift cards to Best Buy, Toppers, Erbert’s & Gerbert’s and Harmony Café.
Participants are required to bring their pamphlets to the “Diversify Your Mind” social with the event checklist stamped in order to qualify for the raffle drawing. If you don’t have enough stamps, OMA encourages you to try again next term.