Unity Week engages students in shaping the future

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Story by Andrea Lopez, for The Muleskinner—
ONE voice. ONE goal. ONE campus. Unity Week was a diversity program consisting of speakers, panels, entertainment, food and music that ran from Feb. 11-15. Hosted by the Diversity Committee, it was a collaborative effort put on by students, faculty and administrators.
To kick off Unity Week, four distinct voice of truth panels, comprised of students, gathered in the Union Ballroom throughout the day to inform attendees about various topics. The International Student Organization, Greek Life, Q&A and Students Excelling Together all participated in the panels.
From gay, straight and everything in between, to the myth and facts of Greek life, panels covered a wide range of subjects. The panel “An International Journey: Coming to America” consisted of international students who came from Oman, Yemen, India, Kenya and Nigeria.
The students were asked numerous questions regarding their homeland, specifically differences among the importance of education in their country compared to America.
“The panels were intended to be informative in nature and expose domestic students to a different point of view,” said graduate assistant Kimberly Madden.
Prepared to lead?
On Tuesday, motivational speaker Joshua Fredenburg of Los Angeles brought his vivacious personality to UCM to ask the question, “Are you a leader prepared to impact the world?”
The purpose of the leadership program was to provide students with specific leadership skills that would enable them to make a positive impact in their community, nation and world.
The nationally recognized speaker had no problem keeping students engaged throughout his presentation. His upbeat energy bounced off others, which kept the room alert.
“Having us repeat positive words made the room feel more energetic and made me pumped to be there,” student Jacquie Weirich said.
Students were given outlines to take notes throughout the talk. In addition, he displayed a slideshow that included many inspirational quotes from individuals who never gave up on their life goals.
Fredenburg took a personal approach to the program by sharing stories that contributed to his success. Throughout his presentation, he focused on five specific questions that he wanted students to implement in their life: 1) Do you have self-awareness? 2) Do you have vision? 3) Are you leading with purpose? 4) Are you leading with love? 5) Do you have courageous faith?
Fredenburg said that the University of California, Berkley, did a recent study and the statistics showed that three out of 100 students in college know what they want to do with their life. As for the other 97, they did not have a clue. Fredenburg made it clear that he was excited for those in the audience because he said he knows each and every individual has great potential.
Walk in her shoes
During Wednesday afternoon, a group of 30 young men gathered in the Union in preparation for a unique type of walk. To raise awareness about sexual abuse, assault and rape against women, UCM hosted their rendition of the award-winning men’s march, Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.
Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity and Brothers of Nia both participated in the event. “The men participating in the march were very positive about the cause and saw it not as being weak to walk in heels, but as being man enough to walk a mile in women’s shoes while taking a stand against sexual abuse,” said coordinator Mashega Rodgers.
Sisters of Ujima helped with check-in and giving out shoes, as well as helping the men practice walking in their heels. “The hardest part was finding women’s shoes large enough to fit the guys feet,” Rodgers said.
In order to help inform the community about women’s abuse, Sigma Tau Gamma decided to partake in this event. “We all came to the conclusion that we wouldn’t ever want anything to happen to our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and so on, so we decided we wanted to be a part of it,” said Kevin Joyce, public relation Chairs for Sigma Tau Gamma. “We most enjoyed that we as men could get a feel for what women go through wearing those heels.”
Marching around campus that afternoon, the men challenged themselves by walking in heels, all while sending an important message to the community. There are already plans for hosting this event again during Unity Week. “We are going to work on getting more shoes and actually raising money instead of just creating awareness,” said Emily Bergsieker, assistant director for campus activities. “We want to do both.”
Body image issues
In addition to Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, a talk conducted by UCM counselor Liz Cassidy addressed the common issues dealing with body image. “Criticizing our bodies, engaging in ‘fat talk’ and negatively comparing ourselves to Photoshopped images of the ‘ideal’ body have become accepted, almost expected, ways of relating to our bodies,” Cassidy said.
She asked how many of them read magazines, and a sea of hands flew up. Cassidy seemed to dig deep with her crowd that day. Illustrating drilling images, statistics and facts dealing with body image, seemed to leave a mark on the students who listened to her presentation.
“Negative body image is a significant problem among women and girls, and increasingly impacts men as well,” Cassidy said. “Body image dissatisfaction can impact our happiness and satisfaction in life.”
As a counselor, she said she found it important to address this issue with students because it impacts most people, a good majority of them being on college campuses. Cassidy noted that poor body image often places significant limits on a person’s life.
Comfortable in own skin
“It might prevent someone from being comfortable exercising in public, going to the pool, wearing types of clothing they enjoy, or even engaging in close relationships,” Cassidy said. In order to counteract the negative thoughts that may cloud our minds, Cassidy suggests reminding ourselves about what we like about our bodies, and prioritizing our physical health above our appearance.
The most attended and impactive event throughout the course of the week seemed to be the Tunnel of Oppression. It attracted many individuals because most people were able to relate to a scenario that was represented.
The Tunnel of Oppression focused on domestic violence, racism, male and female body image, and suicide. Participants were guided through a series of realistic scenes that portrayed many hardships in today’s society.
For the rest of us
To end Unity Week on a positive note, a carnival themed party, “365: A festivus for the rest of us,” was thrown in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center for the community to enjoy. The cultural celebration featured an array of activities for all ages. From performers and carnival games, to henna tattoos and caricature drawings, the festival highlighted different cultures.
Families and individuals from the community were able to partake in these festivities at no expense. Whether it was because of the free pizza or the chance to be internationally linked, the people who decided to attend the event left with a new ideas. “I hope every person took something away from Unity Week which helped them better understand diversity,” Fajardo said.