Unique gathering allows large group to discuss diversity

As an extension of last year's discussion on community service and diversity called "We are Marquette," Wednesday's talks, titled "Learning from One Another," pried apart issues about interacting with people different than oneself.

Over a period of three hours, about 150 Marquette students, teachers and administrators witnessed presentations and conversed about diversity at the university in a setting of a World Café.

This group of people came to several conclusions such as increasing the number of similar dialogues, not being afraid to ask questions, affirming one another as human beings and being honest about the issue of diversity.

University Provost Madeline Wake was in attendance and said near the end of the program that parts of the administration are working on the diversity issue.

"I am absolutely … behind diversity," she said.

But Wake added she cannot assess the issue alone.

The program was built by former Marquette Student Government President Timothy Lefeber, other MUSG members, the Offices of Student Development, the provost and the senior vice president.

The evening kicked off and closed with a documentary clip from "Redlining," a part of a 10-year project of capturing diversity in Milwaukee by Daniel Banda, associate director of the New Media Center.

In the 20-minute glimpse of the work, those invited witnessed how Banda tested people's reactions by asking people on the streets of Milwaukee if they could direct him to an "ethnic" neighborhood and how two women made lefse and tortillas, bread items from Banda's Mexican and Norwegian backgrounds.

Partner interviews followed the film presentations.

One such conversation was between Caleen Kennedy, a College of Communication sophomore, and Brent Bray, a College of Arts & Sciences junior.

The two students said they came to the table with different backgrounds and different goals.

Bray, who is originally from Guam but now lives in Spain, said he challenges those who uphold the status quo in regards to diversity and believes all people are diverse in one way or another.

"I feel that a lot of kids don't want to escape the paradigm of white privilege," he said.

Kennedy, who comes from an Irish-American background, said she was taught to keep an open mind and thinks it says something about the university when she sees all the same people at similar events.

What came next was the World Café portion of the program, in which about five participants discussed a diversity question for 20 minutes at one table and then moved to a different table to answer a different question.

People talked about something unexpected they learned from a person different than themselves, what limits prohibit learning from others and how people can shape the increase of interactions among different people.

Toby Peters, the associate vice president in the Office of Administration, said most people want the same things but start off in different places, and the path in the middle is sometimes hard to maneuver.

Other participants said people may be scared to step out of their comfort zones or show their ignorance when talking about diversity. They agreed that education might be a way to combat such stagnancy.

Angel Hilson, College of Arts & Sciences senior, said education will at times be painful, but it is necessary.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on April 14 2005.