Hey, New Bengals! Did you know that Idaho State University has a Diversity Resource Center (DRC)? It does! It’s actually located in Rendezvous, Room 129! Give them a peek! “The goal [of the DRC] is to enrich appreciation, respect, and understanding of cultures, ethnicities, religious ideologies, gender, age, geographic locations, and all peoples on the campus of Idaho State University.”
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to Dr. Henry Evans, an ISU alum and Assistant Director of the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action / Diversity office, and Mr. Ram Eddings, the Program Coordinator for the Diversity Resource Center. These two work in conjunction to provide university outreach for diversity education and equitable access at all levels of the ISU community.
Dr. Evans shared: “Our hope is that the DRC is a place for the students to feel comfortable, hold meetings, use computers, talk to staff about establishing a club focused on diversity, to explore yourself and interact with different backgrounds. We have international flags to symbolize our acceptance of difference and introduce diversity to domestic perceptions. The DRC provides class trainings and talks as a general orientation to openness to learning about diversity; a part of the ISU mission is to learn, stretch, grow.” He says main events are hosted throughout Diversity Week, in which current issues are discussed, and students can learn for free in a nonthreatening environment about communicating with each other in a global society. Just last Fall, the DRC hosted a discussion with Pocatello Law Enforcement about police-community relations involving ISU.
When I asked Dr. Evans whether they had experienced any resistance to acceptance of diversity on ISU’s campus, he said no. That in itself is so powerful! He said the general feeling toward diversity has moved from the passive to active over the years, and that support is more visible as students take ownership in cultural programming. How to approach integration of diverse students has not so recently been a concern. “There are committees and councils to make sure ISU is a receptive and nurturing environment. There are people spanning from academic to administrative levels to be sure ISU is the place it should be.”
Pertaining to New Student Orientation, Mr. Eddings shared: “Orientation is a good place to start, because we’re fighting to move from tolerance to acceptance the moment students step foot onto campus. It creates opportunities for them to interact and to recognize and bond over commonalities they can’t identify just from appearance.” He said we too often let the “What-Ifs” get in the way. “How do you approach diversity? Do you expect or create difference? Ask questions. Extend yourself the freedom to learn by extending yourself to others; lend your time and more often than not, you get what you have given… With most students, ask and you shall receive – people will talk about themselves if you truly want to know; they can tell if you’re being genuine.
It’s okay to make a faux pas, a mistake. Apologize and move on. Lingering on a mistake makes the conversation about you.” He encouraged new students to “Go for it! Never assume.”
In essence, with this new wisdom to consider and countless new friends to be made, Dr. Evan’s words ring true: “We’re all Bengals; we may as well make this a place where we’re all happy Bengals.”