I-Connect encourages inclusive campus


Ryan Fang

Students chat with each other in Asian American Cultural Center, one of many cultural and resource centers offered by the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations.

By Marissa Plescia, Staff writer

With 10,545 international students from 113 countries, the University is an incredibly diverse community. The I-Connect Diversity and Inclusion Workshop gives students the chance to embrace the variety that the campus offers.

I-Connect is a program that is mandatory for all freshman and transfer students and is meant to inform students on the issues of diversity around the University. Sessions started on Jan. 25 and will continue through mid-March.

I-Connect has been a program at the University since 2009; however, the program did not become mandatory until Spring 2013.

“It’s very easy to come to a campus of this size and find a bubble and stay in that bubble. Unfortunately, that is a disservice for any student who graduates from this university and needs to go and work with people who aren’t in that bubble,” said Ross Wantland, director of diversity and social justice education.

Through the program, students are given the opportunity to learn the basics of diversity and inclusion. The I-Connect team hopes students can leave with a solid understanding of the topic and learn how to handle situations in which discrimination takes place.

“This workshop is like an introduction for further discussion,” Alison Chan, senior in LAS and I-Connect facilitator, said. “But it does give students who are new to the University a way to learn about people from different backgrounds.”

At the two-hour workshop, students should expect several activities to take place. For example, there will be an identity activity, in which several identities are posted around the room and each student has to stand by the one they relate to the most. There will also be a group activity in which each group is given scenarios on diversity and inclusion, and they have to figure out how they would approach that situation.

The change made by this workshop is not going to be radical, Wantland said. However, he believes that students leave the workshop with a better understanding of stereotyping and have an improved knowledge on the resources they can use when they encounter a problematic situation.

“There are students who participate and really leave the workshop wanting to learn more,” Chan said.

Chan decided she wanted to become an I-Connect facilitator after taking Wantland’s class on Advanced Current Topics in Psychology. Ever since then, she said the way she thinks and perceives people has changed.

“I guess in a way I’ve become less selfish, and then I bring it to I-Connect,” Chan said.

Not only is the program beneficial for the attendees, but for the facilitators also.

For Yueyang Chen, senior in LAS and an I-Connect facilitator, it allows him to hear other perspectives.

Chen said he benefits from the program because it gives him a chance to learn about other people’s experiences, and expand his own opinion on diversity.

“I consider myself a facilitator and a learner in a workshop,” Chen said.

The I-Connect workshop is not the only activity done by the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations. There is also a regular lunch program called Conversation Cafe, and a weekly workshop called I-Journey that students can attend.

The I-Connect team recommends applying what they learn from the workshop outside of the program. They hope to open up the topic for a larger conversation and want students to know that there are many resources, such as the Office of Inclusion and the cultural houses, that students can use when they need to.

“I-Connect is just one of several different and initiatives programs that we do,” Wantland said. “It’s really designed to be a stepping stone for future experiences and exposure that first year and transfer students will receive, and we encourage them to receive, while they’re on campus.”

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