Center supports students, facilitates discussion

Every student, faculty member, staff member, and organization contributes to the diverse community that is Washington University. For the past year, diversity has had another advocate. The university established the Center for Diversity and Inclusion to “enhance and strengthen Washington University’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive community.”

The center is built upon four pillars – education and outreach, collaboration, advocacy, and support – and staff wasted no time putting those principles to work around campus. “Almost immediately after opening their doors last July, the center became a hub of activity for students and other members of the campus community,” says Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for students and dean of the First Year Center.

Center Director LaTanya Buck, Assistant Director Purvi Patel, and their team collaborate with campus and community partners to support students and facilitate openness and discussion. The new center also includes a physical space where members of the WashU community can gather for meetings, or to study, socialize, and learn from one another.

Buck and the center will coordinate “Our Names, Our Stories” during Bear Beginnings student orientation this August, in collaboration with the First Year Center. This program will show a wide variety of perspectives, as students perform monologues addressing issues such as race, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

In addition, the center hosts the “Reel Talk” Discussion Series with University Libraries and Student Involvement and Leadership. The two discussions per semester are designed to engage students in facilitated conversation regarding social issues, concepts, and identities by using various media outlets to jumpstart discussion. The goal is that the resulting critical thinking and open discussion will empower students to take interest and action when it comes to social change.

The new center involves students at every step. Students were included on the committee that established the center, six current students serve as ambassadors and recruit others to become involved in the center, and student workers staff the physical space.

“Individual students as well as student organizations have found the space and the programs of the center to be critical in providing opportunities for both education and advocacy around issues of diversity and inclusion,” Wild says.