Luther College Chips

Luther College Diversity Center begins 15th year of equity work

Left+to+right%3A+Yukesh+Mikchan+%28%E2%80%9821%29+and+Babba+Laminou+%28%E2%80%9821%29+listen+to+a+speaker+at+the+Diversity+Center%E2%80%99s+annual+Student+Welcome+Dinner.+
Left to right: Yukesh Mikchan (‘21) and Babba Laminou (‘21) listen to a speaker at the Diversity Center’s annual Student Welcome Dinner.

Left to right: Yukesh Mikchan (‘21) and Babba Laminou (‘21) listen to a speaker at the Diversity Center’s annual Student Welcome Dinner.

Hasan Muhammad (‘21)| Photo Bureau

Hasan Muhammad (‘21)| Photo Bureau

Left to right: Yukesh Mikchan (‘21) and Babba Laminou (‘21) listen to a speaker at the Diversity Center’s annual Student Welcome Dinner.

Jonathan Kuehner, Staff Writer

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As the Luther College Diversity Center (LDC) enters its 15th year of service, the staff hope for an increase in awareness and acceptance of diversity within all aspects of identity at Luther.

Located in the Dahl Centennial Union, the LDC is a suite of offices and lounges intended to educate students, faculty, and staff on issues of diversity and equity; to help students with academic and personal problems, and to act as a safe place on campus to study and relax. Communications Assistant Samson Masanga (‘20) said the office’s energy is accepting.

“When you step into this office you can step in as anyone,” Masanga said. “You can start a conversation with anyone and people will listen to you.”

Before the LDC became what it is today, it was two separate offices: the Multicultural Center and the International Students Office. According to Director of the LDC Wintlett Taylor-Browne, the idea to combine the two offices was offered by a group of students and faculty who wanted to change the atmosphere of the campus to be less discriminatory and better informed.

“We thought it was a good time to bring the Multicultural Center and International Students Office together,” Taylor-Browne said. “They were different but faced similar challenges.”

In order to celebrate the 15-year milestone of the offices joining, the LDC is holding a “Fifteen for Fifteen” book fund campaign. The goal of this program is to raise $1,000 for each year of the LDC’s existence. These funds will go to the pre-existing Diversity Center Book Fund which is available to help students in need afford textbooks. Donations will also go to the Sonya Lund International Student Emergency Funds.

A large aspect of the LDC’s work is to support international students as they adjust to life in the United States and at Luther. International Student Coordinator Amy Webber’s work focuses on this aspect of the LDC.

“I am responsible for helping [international] students transition to life at Luther, doing orientation for them, and supporting them while they’re here,” Webber said. “I follow up when they have troubles, deal with immigration issues relative to their student visas, [and] help them remember what they have to do relative to their student visas.”

Kien Dao (‘20) | Photo Bureau
Legoadi Ramabele (‘20) models in the 2016 International Fashion Show.

While the LDC is actively involved in helping international students complete their necessary legal paperwork, this is not the sole purpose of the office.

“We also do work with individual students around academic advising and helping them to overcome barriers, which may not seem to be a barrier to you but to that particular student [it] may be,” Taylor-Browne said. “We also do education programming and we collaborate with almost every group on campus.”

Although a lot of work done in the LDC pertains to international students, that does not mean other students are excluded. Students of any ethnic and racial identity, nationality, ability, gender identity, and religious identity are welcome in the LDC. Student Outreach Assistant Steffert Spencer (‘19) commented on the space’s inclusivity.

“It’s a space that welcomes all,” Spencer said. “Everyone can go there. Your background doesn’t matter.”

Spencer went on to describe the role the LDC has in his life when he is not working.

“For me personally, it’s a safe zone where I go and talk about my day,” Spencer said. “Or issues I’ve had throughout the day.”

The LDC carries out a number of programs and assists in the organization of several on-campus groups including Men of Color, Ethnic Beats, and International Students and their Allies. The goal is to build communities that span demographics. Likewise, they publish a weekly newsletter, “Diversity Today,” which seeks to promote healthy conversation and inform people about the diversity inherent to the human population. Often, student workers in the LDC will conduct interviews for short articles that are printed alongside pieces by the staff members.

One of the community-building events is Popcorn Thursdays. Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to come for freshly made popcorn, conversation, or just a place to relax.

While Popcorn Thursday is a consistent community bonding event, Assistant Director of the LDC Michelle Boike (‘13) said there are differences in who attends now versus her time as a Multicultural Student Assistant.

“The thing that I notice has changed a lot is the groups of people that come into the LDC. Specifically, students have changed a lot from when I started as a first-year to now, when I’m working here,” Boike said. “I would say when I started working here, it was a lot of multicultural and international students and their friends that came in, different people are coming in and people use the space differently.” Individual students feel the impact of LDC largely through the community it builds.

“You don’t have to be a certain kind of person to interact with anyone else,” Masanga said. “Just as I am I can build connections and interact with anyone.”

The LDC staff hopes more students will be aware of what the LDC is and does and find themselves in its offices and lounges.

“[Students] need to come in and ask,” Taylor-Browne said. “Ask us what we do. Come in with an open mind. Come in and be curious.”

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