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Council, Conference Encourage Celebrating Differences

Jan. 28, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Sara Thompson


Diversity Council members
Diversity Council members include (from left) Arielle Phillips, Jamal Turner, Joy Blalock, Ashly Poyer, William Surber V, and Antoinee' McCarthy.

With a student body at Sam Houston State University representing more than 60 countries worldwide, students have at hand the opportunity to learn about different cultures and lifestyles that exist in many areas of the world.

Yet between class work, studying, and other obligations, students can find it difficult to learn more about issues their peers deal with on an everyday basis.

One organization, however, is here to change that.

Celebrating diversity and embracing these differences is a common goal of the group of 16 SHSU students who make up the university’s Diversity Council.

The council, established by the Office of Multicultural and International Student Services in 2005, hosts various programs and events to educate the SHSU community on diversity in all aspects of life.

But the Diversity Council also takes their passion for diversity a step further by educating beyond the SHSU community with their annual Diversity Leadership Conference.

The first of its kind in Texas, the conference attracts over 200 students from colleges statewide every spring. This year’s 7th annual Diversity Leadership Conference will be held Feb. 18-19 in the Lowman Student Center Ballroom.

“Instead of being a conference for SHSU, it has become a representation of SHSU, and that has always been important to us,” said Ashly Poyer, co-executive director for the Diversity Council.

Each year, the Diversity Leadership Conference addresses topics such as religion, ethnicity, cultural education, social issues and sexual orientation. Through workshops and guest speakers, the council works to better inform students on these issues.

“This year’s conference is a little different from the six before. It will truly be a one of a kind experience,” Poyer said.

The “True Life: I’m Going to DLC” conference will feature award-winning documentary filmmaker Andrew Jenks, from MTV’s World of Jenks. Other presentations include a speech by political pioneer Stephanie Brown and interactive workshops hosted by other student organizations.

In accordance to their theme, the Diversity Council will also feature another one of their programs during the conference. Throughout the semester, the council has kept various video and photo booths set up around campus to give several SHSU students a chance to tell their own experiences with diversity. Attending students will be able to view the resulting collaboration, “True life: I’m diverse because...” during DLC 2011.

“Our goal, of both DLC and as an organization, is to get college students to step outside their comfort zone and meet new, exciting people in a fun environment,” said Donielle Miller, MISS program coordinator.

Registration is free for SHSU students who register before Feb. 5 and $5 for regular registration (Feb. 6-18). The cost for non-SHSU students is $60 for regular registration.

Another program offered by the Diversity Council includes “Multi-mingle,” during which different organizations are invited to intermix, meet new faces, build networks and exchange ideas, all in an effort gain different perspectives on everyday issues.

“That’s what college is about, to come here and participate in a dialogue to better understand people,” Miller said.

Diversity Council members also assist other student organizations with their workshops. The council demonstrates the importance of such programs on campus as well as the skills needed to host an interactive workshop.

In order to efficiently manage their numerous efforts throughout the year, the organization has undergone efforts to separate into two divisions, according to Miller.

The board of directors, made up of six council members, includes two executive directors, which function as the leaders of the organization. Meanwhile, the 10-member committee votes on the organization’s decisions and assists the council in various ways.

Though they themselves are diverse in many ways, they all have one thing in common, according to Poyer.

“The students who make up the council are tremendous and extremely passionate about diversifying the campus and community,” she said.

For more information, a schedule of events, or to register for the Diversity Leadership Conference, visit the Diversity Council website or contact Miller at 936.294.3588 or diversity@shsu.edu.



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