Two new student advocates are helping more people at University of Lynchburg understand and appreciate diversity.
The Office of Multicultural Services recently hired Iris Perez ’17 and Laura Arriaza ’20 as Student Diversity Liaisons. These students facilitate workshops, presentations, and discussions on diversity. They also work with student organizations, athletic teams, and clubs around campus to promote inclusion and help people understand each other’s similarities and differences.
There’s a lot more to diversity than many people realize, said Iris. “People think diversity is just about ethnicity, but it’s so much more. It’s about socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, race, age, and many other components,” she explained. “It’s important that people learn about this and understand the multiple factors that go into it.”
Annette Stadtherr, director of multicultural services, explained that Lynchburg has a duty to equip students with the tools they need to navigate the real world. The ability to work in a diverse atmosphere will allow students to succeed in the workforce and other situations throughout life, she said.
Iris and Laura will help people support each other more, she added. “I think the student diversity liaisons will get people talking about how to be inclusive, how to be an ally, and how to break down the wall of prejudice.”
Laura described diversity as an asset that has helped her broaden her horizons and learn more about people around her. She hopes other students will do the same.
“People need to be motivated to go to different types of events on campus, not just the same events they have been to time and time again,” Laura said. “Our campus has been making positive steps in educating students on diversity, but I want to see it being taken a notch forward.”
In December, Iris and Laura facilitated a program in a first-year residence hall titled “The Wall.” They discussed stereotypes and the negative effects they inflict upon people. The program was a great way to reach out to their peers and they hope to hold more events in the future.
Diversity is one of University of Lynchburg’s core values, and the recently adopted strategic plan places a high priority on fostering a diverse community where all students can thrive. In addition to creating the student diversity liaison positions, Lynchburg created the Center for Equity and Inclusion and named Aaron Smith ’05, ’07 MEd as the College’s equity and inclusion officer.