Multicultural advocates break barriers

From left, Cassie Lancki, Michelle Thornton and Rex Wright, all sophomores in LAS, have a laugh during the Mix-it-Up dinner at Hopkins Hall on Wednesday evening. Alex Nowak

From left, Cassie Lancki, Michelle Thornton and Rex Wright, all sophomores in LAS, have a laugh during the Mix-it-Up dinner at Hopkins Hall on Wednesday evening. Alex Nowak

By Sharon Steed

Hopkins dining hall “Mixed-it-Up” with the Multicultural Advocates Wednesday evening to promote diversity and interaction among people who would not normally socialize with each other.

“We basically want to ‘depromote’ self-segregation because a lot of people go into the dining halls and they sit by people that either look like them or have the same interests,” said Vanessa Nicosia, a multicultural advocate and junior in ACES. Mix-it-Up was put together to encourage residents to meet their neighbors and find common ground, according to a pamphlet handed out at the event.

“We want to create an atmosphere where everyone is open-minded and welcoming to everyone else, no matter race, gender, sexual orientation, anything,” she said.

Nicosia said she hopes this program provides self-confidence for people by getting to them to step out on the edge and talk to someone who may be of a different race, religion or sexual orientation.

The main goal of this program is to break down the barriers of difference, Nicosia said. The cliques in the dining halls are undeniable, and hopefully Mix-it-Up will tear some of those apart, she said.

Along with racially motivated stereotypes, this program also gave students random facts on everything from gender to religion to sexual orientation.

The cultural houses and the Bruce Nesbit African-American Cultural Program radio station, WBML, participated in the program, which will also take place tonight at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall dining hall.

“This program gave me a chance to sit down with others I haven’t met or talked to before,” said Charolette Denson, freshman in LAS. Denson, who attended a high school where there were mostly blacks, said this program will help her to appreciate diversity.

Mark Reynolds, junior in LAS, agreed. Reynolds came from an all-black neighborhood, and because of that, he said, coming to college and seeing people of all different ethnicities was a culture shock. This program is very beneficial to his understanding of diversity, he said.

“I think this is a very good program, especially for freshmen who really don’t know about the diversity here at U of I,” said Charlie Murphy, junior in applied life studies. “It’s a good opportunity for people to come out and talk to people of different races.”

Kathryn Broderick, freshman is LAS, who came from a predominately Caucasian high school, said this program would bring more diversity into her own life.

“This makes people want to be more friendly, talk to each other and help everybody come together no matter what race you are,” Broderick said of Mix-it-Up.

Freshman in LAS Anita Xue, who was sitting with Broderick, came from very diverse high school. Although Xue said the University did not seem overwhelmingly Caucasian, she still found the program to be beneficial.

Xue met people of different races that she would not have met otherwise – “It encourages you to meet random people,” Xue said. “If it weren’t for this, I would just be sitting with people I knew.”