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One Community

One Community


You know, I was really amazed that we have so many important stories to tell. We want to get together and we want to have these these dialogues whether they be uncomfortable. We want to have these experiences and for domestic and international students to get together and talk and integrate and learn about each other Seeing its impact and now looking at it in retrospect one questions why we didn’t have it earlier And every time I get someone else coming up and saying hey this was a great event and I really connected with you Thank you for sharing. That just makes it worth it. My name is Dr. Jessica Guzman-Rea and I am the director of the Intercultural Center. The Intercultural Center at the University of Rochester exists to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity, but also look at the intersections between one’s identity and culture. And so we’re looking to have programs and work with students and faculty in regards to talking about these issues that affect us all. Sometimes those conversations are difficult to have and having an intercultural center on campus can mitigate those issues, whether it’s having a panel conversation putting together a conference or having some talks, I think these issues are really important for us. The flag was placed in a dorm—not a dorm, in a frat building, at the time the frat was not in that house, but just a regular person put it up in their window, and a campus member took a picture of it, put it up in the DLH page I believe. Well, yes, so a member had sent the picture to The DLH page. Okay from there we sent it to send it to the Class of 2015 page. So each class has like a home page. And from there It sparked conversation and the person will actually put it up gave his reasons defending why he should put it up you know things like southern pride and that, and for a while the debate was quite intellectual, and then it turned not intellectual. Last year at a discussion at the college diversity roundtable following an unfortunate incident involving a confederate flag on campus, there was a intense and interesting discussion with students about the colleges’ and university’s response to that incident and what we might do to try to prevent further things like this from happening. And one of the dominant ideas in that discussion was that we establish an orientation program. I didn’t have in mind a specific thing that should happen. I’ve always believed I’ve been at the U of R for over 20 years and I have great faith in the power of our students to actually take ownership of an experience, an event, and so I believed and I still believe that once we let students start talking and really own an event or an experience that it’s going to be really phenomenal. So I didn’t have a specific goal in mind except that students should be free to express themselves and other students should hear and hopefully have some kind of an impact on them. I work with a number of people—Dean Feldman, Dean of Students Matt Burns, with Beth Olivares, with Norm Burnett from OMSA, Jessica Guzman Rea, Eleanor Oi who’s the director of orientation programs, staff in the Kearns Center and the Office of Minority Student Affairs, Who did I work with? That can take up the entire 20 minute interview. You know, everybody had their hands in on this. There are an awful lot of people who made a success out of this idea. The students – the students – the students The students – the initial founders are the students. Coming from students A whole bunch of students who gave up an awful lot of time to work on this, not only to work on this but to share some pretty personal stories in front of 1300 freshmen which I think is pretty phenomenal. Towards the beginning of the summer We were really putting things in motion to really lay the plans that became someone we needed to really contact the peer facilitators and kind of organize them together And that’s where I took on that role in terms of creating the Blackboard group and sort of organizing the peer facilitators. But then also trying to work with Eleanor in orientation and other members of the committee in terms of organizing logistics of the program. I don’t know about you guys, I got an email saying that somebody had you know pointed, pointed me over to you know The ICC and I think the Kearns Center whoever it was at the time that was organizing it, so I got an email saying like oh, you know, we think that you could be a good candidate. How about you write up a little narrative and send it in and then we’ll go over it and see what you think. I got an email as well. I went to an info session and I think it was and then submitted about a page. Yeah, I did the same thing I found out later that my priest actually had recommended that I do the program which is kind of neat and then a little bit of info session we down I don’t know if you guys knew but I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I just knew typing up a little life narrative, sending it in and then we got selected apparently. During the program there’s a moment as a moderator where I step down and I just kind of grab a seat like a participant like every other freshman, and I, I was blown away by how emotional it got. like I did not anticipate tearing up and crying. I had heard these stories about during the dress rehearsals and practicing with the panelists but at the day of the event, I just I think I just um overcame with the emotion. It was like in this auditorium and there were like about like five, six people, they all came from like diverse like backgrounds and like their whole life like no one that was like particularly from like America they were they all having different stories that they wanted to share and Yeah, I was just interesting to listen to like how everyone’s unique in their own skin, diverse like not only by race but like many points of view and it was just interesting to like hear all their stories. It wasn’t until after hearing our other peer students’ testimonies that I really got excited.This is gonna be awesome like we have so many kinds of diversity on display here and people have shared their stories and talk about how it contributes to their education to their experiences here at Rochester and by showing that there wasn’t just one type of diversity or one way, they could be diverse and be okay, It made me really really excited to talk to the students and let them know that their stories matter. Another important part of the fabric here at the U of R. When everyone just kind of settles in and realize that they also have a role, one, being at that event and two, being a part of a conversation it was really really good. I got you think one of the best things was that the you have a large group speaking at the discussion and you had the majority was like, you know, what? Yeah we are the majority? I don’t have all these hardships as well. But guess what? Like I can still get involved and still sympathize I hope that this is just the beginning of the conversation. We will continue to have programming throughout the year We’ve already been in talks with faculty staff and students about what type of programs that we should do as follow-ups. Because all the freshmen went through this experience Upper-class students were saying well, my peers need to go through this, you know, we need to educate the upper-class students about this and so we are slated to be in the next orientation and so every year this will be a staple of our freshman experience, which is really exciting to think about I’m hoping that we build off the momentum of this program That we have a series of dialogues throughout the school year that build on this One Community concept that we have these conversations in various spaces and places around campus and It’s an opportunity for people to learn more about each other. My biggest takeaway was sort of when we pull back the seams and create an environment where our students can come together they have very beneficial conversations, and they’re all intelligent and they all come from different aspects of life but they’re all really committed to being part of this community working towards it make sure it’s the best. It’s always interesting because you see you know 1300 freshmen is walking around campus and sometimes there’s like this glint of recognition. We maybe notice who you are and the ones that have come up or have said something at least the connection that I’ve gotten out of it is they really connected with at least one story or at least one panelist and that’s been great. Conversation helps people to grow, and it’s an integral part of life expressed yourself really and when everyone has this idea that everyone here is different it gives them that opportunity to really be free. Well, I thought it was fabulous. I was delighted to see all the freshmen there. From my sense of what they were like, what the audience was like, they were attentive and interested in what they were hearing and I thought the students who told their stories that day were just wonderful. And so I think not just my office, the Office of the Dean of Students, but all offices on campus groups of students now have an obligation to make good on that promise that we made to the freshmen. The promise is that we talk about difficult things. We talk about them with an amount of civility and respect. It was modeled during One Community Eventually, we will live and breathe, you know this One Community. We already live in breathe Meliora, I think this is just the next tagline.

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