The Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC) at Gonzaga University recently received the Ignatian Medal for Outstanding Commitment to Diversity and Social Justice Award for their Diversity Monologues event.
In March, UMEC presented the 11th annual Diversity Monologues, which are student spoken-word pieces. Students apply with a piece in the fall and continue to work all year with faculty and professional spoken-word artists to workshop their piece, before performing the final monologue in March.
“Last year we had stories on fat-shaming, racism and the coming-out process, so the Diversity Monologues are all pretty intense topics focused on identity,” said Joan Iva Fawcett, the assistant dean of GU’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, Community and Equity (DICE). “It’s a chance for students to share their story, and last year, we also opened it up to staff and faculty.”
However, Fawcett said that the Diversity Monologues are just a single part within the pillars of programming that UMEC works to build and provide for the GU community.
“We organize the work we do around three pillars - mentoring, social justice programming, which is what Diversity Monologues falls under along with speakers and films, and then Intercultural Development is the dialogue programs,” Fawcett said.
All three of these pillars create opportunities for students to engage with other cultures and identities outside of the classroom, to increase what Fawcett calls “cultural fluency.”
The mentoring pillar includes the Building Relationships in Diverse Gonzaga Environments (BRIDGE) and Act Six. BRIDGE is a pre-orientation program designed for underrepresented students that provides guidance on how to navigate GU, while also providing a designated space of security and belonging.
Act Six provides leadership training and full scholarships for students who choose to use their education to make a significant difference on campus and within their communities at home.
The programming pillar includes weekly co-curricular events that focus on a social justice issue and works to highlight the experiences of marginalized communities. These take shape in several series of events, including the Arts and Activism series, the Multiple Lenses Film series, the Speak Up series and the Out to Lunch with Allies series.
The annual programming includes a community gathering for the International Day of Tolerance, Diversity Monologues and Lavender Graduation, which celebrates graduating LGBTQ+ students and allies.
Finally, the Intercultural Development pillar works to create opportunities for students to engage with diversity, equity and inclusion topics outside of a classroom setting. The three sections include Intergroup Dialogue, Safe Space training for faculty, staff and students, and Social Justice Peer Education, which trains students to promote social identity development in each housing block on campus.
Tere Graham, the Program Manager for Social Justice Programming, said the biggest goal for her and the pillar that she leads is to listen to the students, faculty and staff and the campus. This allows her to find out what makes them feel seen, heard and valued in order to create programming that allows them to have safe space opportunities in which we can all learn from and with one another.
“GU is doing really cool things with the arts,” Graham said. “We are absolutely incredible with our academics, our study support, our sports teams, but the arts are so amazing.”
Graham also works closely with Diversity Monologues, as the event falls under her management in the Social Justice pillar.
“At the end of the day, no one can tell your story like you can,” Graham said. “And I believe that vulnerable space is what’s so beautiful. It’s your fingerprint and no one can duplicate that.”
The overarching goals of DICE are seen in the efforts of UMEC and the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center. Both organizations have devoted themselves entirely to the support of underrepresented students and creating an environment of solidarity and education on campus - the award is simply recognition of that support.
“To be honest, I’m very grateful for the award, but I’m more grateful for the work that we do, even when it’s unseen,” Graham said. “That’s why we push programs and hold conversations and try to get visibility, it’s for those beautiful moments when it sparks with an individual and inspires them to lean in and step in on their own and take that passion somewhere else. We want DICE to spread.”
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