Do you want to learn more about diversity? Did you know we have advocates on our campus to help? They are Diversity Advocates, and are students just like you!
The Diversity Advocate Program is designed to enhance the lives of students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. But what are exactly the Diversity Advocates? The Diversity Advocates Program is a group of UW-Whitewater students recruited and trained by the office of Residence Life in leadership skills, group dynamics, needs assessments and program facilitation.
Kari Jo Freudigmann, senior graphic design major, attended to one of the DA programs called Safe Zone. Being trained by other DAs, she found her interest to teach in the program as well and educate people about diversity. Now Kari Jo is part of the Diversity Advocate Program. She is the Community Development Intern for Residence Life and previously she was a DA for two years. Currently, Kari Jo oversees the nine Diversity Advocates by mentoring and advising them.
The program is designed to raise awareness and to promote understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our community. DAs create a proper environment for discussion and dialogue among students and peers. As DAs, students are trained to provide correct information to allow students to think about issues related to difference and diversity. Kari Jo says from her own experience that facilitating these programs is just the tip of the iceberg for a DA, “these programs are not a lecture by any mean; the DA does not go and say this is what I think you should think. It is very much a dialogue where the DA helps the communication to happen.” Once the dialogue on topics such as disability or ethnicity starts, it is important to bring it outside of the program to residence halls and campus in general among students and peers. As Kari Jo asserts, talking about diversity goes beyond ethnicity or sexual orientation. There is so much more: religious belief, body size, traditional or non-traditional students, age, etc. All of these are factors that make us different or relate us to each other.
The DA creates a “safer space” for students to talk about topics that might not want to talk to higher education professionals or speakers but to want discuss these topics with students like them. She says that it is always a surprise facilitating one of the programs. For example, there are activities that put into physical space the differences that exist among students that makes it more visible how diverse your peers are.
The Diversity Program continues its work. Recently, DA programs are being requested for New Students Seminars where freshman students are getting a touch of the dialogue that DA programs pursuits to achieve. Residence Halls keep programs available through the semester as well. The program has received positive comments and feedback from students after attending to one of the presentations offered:
- Diversity 010,
- Relax. We’re All the Same INSIDE!,
- That’s so GAY, and that’s OK!,
- He Said, She Said, WE SAID!,
- Safe Zone I and II.
Through Diversity Advocate Programs and other programs available on campus, it is evident that a high [positive] impact on diversity, acceptance and respect for differences is on the way. Kari Jo states how opportunities are everywhere on our campus for anyone who wants a better understanding of their peers. UW-Whitewater is doing a great job providing resources for its students. Kari Jo, herself, is involved in several student organizations on campus such as Native American Cultural Awareness Association (NACAA), Peace, Education and Activism through Creative Engagement (PEACE), Disability Advocacy and Awareness Coalition, IMPACT, among others. Upon graduation, Kari Jo has big plans to continue her education in higher administration or student affairs that will keep her on track with her projects on leadership and education.
For more information, please visit http://reslife.uww.edu/diversity