Diverse Dialogues: CDI raises awareness throughout MTU campus

Michigan Technology University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) wraps up its pilot Diverse Dialogues series this month.

The series is hosted by the Campus Diversity Educator, Amy Howard, as a way to provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff to have conversations about relevant issues like equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice.

“The biggest thing that I want people to take away is that they are part of the discussion. They’re part of the dialogue. They’re part of the change,” said Howard.

Each dialogue had a centralized theme, from Women of color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to Intersectionality, with pair activities to encourage participants to educate themselves and learn from one another.

Howard said she wanted to create a culture of learners, allowing people access to different definitions and information to help identify ways to be more inclusive.

“Just being a part of the dialogue creates an opportunity to inform the community and create changes,” said Howard. Her hope was to have people leave the dialogue with at least one realization or effort to change something in their daily lives.

She said there are many student affairs staff coming and she hopes to get more faculty involved. She said faculty is “really instrumental” in the conversations about diversity and inclusion, but often they are the ones missing the discussion.

Brenda Rudiger, the assistant vice president for Alumni Engagement, attended two dialogues and said they were interesting and and really made an impact.

“It really is about awareness,” said Rudiger. “It makes you look at things that you observe with a slightly different filter.”

Her purpose in attending was to become more aware, learn and see where she could find ways to better understand and help underrepresented students. She said she thinks she has more confidence in speaking up if she does observe things.

Howard said it’s easy to often see the same faces at these types of events and that having the frequent listeners reinforces the fact that this is an important dialogue, which might lead to getting more people to participate.

“I think sometimes our physical location can restrict our access to diverse identities that aren’t international,” said Howard, referring to international students as the second-highest population of students.

She said some of the difficulty recruiting domestic minorities are a mix of Tech being a predominately white institution and the location.

However, she said the university has done a good job trying to work on these issues. She said there is now a minority admissions recruiter who lives in Detroit and works in lower Michigan to help recruit domestic minorities.

The CDI also makes strides to welcome accepted students who haven’t enrolled by sending them postcards. The goal is to let them know there are resources and people who will be here for them.

In the summer Howard will evaluate the dialogue series to determine things she might want to change for the continuation of the series in the future fall and spring semesters.

She said she has learned more about Tech’s diverse student population.

“I think that understanding the landscape of who our students are, and also understanding the landscape of who our professionals are, has helped me to create opportunities that are safe for any individual to come to,” said Howard.

The center’s last dialogue will feature a panel of students representing LGBTQIA. The students will discuss their experiences in STEM fields and daily encounters on campus. It will be held on April 26 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Building Ballroom.