Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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MnSCU director addresses diversity at Winona State

Victoria McKenzie/ Winonan

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, about thirty students and professors gathered in Kryzsko Commons at the Student Activity Center stage to learn about diversity.  Leon Rodrigues led the forum titled “A Vision for Diversity in the MnSCU System.”

Rodrigues, who is the newly appointed chief diversity officer for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), previously served in a similar position at Bethel University.

Previously working for a university, Rodrigues said he hopes to bridge the gap between MnSCU and the educators who actually attempt to implement the policies MnSCU sets forth for them.

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Rodrigues grew up in South Africa during the Apartheid Era, and he said he is grateful for the opportunities he has had to learn because of it.

Though he finds diversity an important element in all areas of society, in his position he said he focuses on increasing diversity on college campuses in Minnesota.

“For me diversity means hope and living in a higher order,” Rodrigues said.

In the past, diversity on college campuses has been about recruiting different types of students, Rodrigues said. He expands on this concept and said it is not enough just to have a diverse student body.

Merely having diversity on campuses can lead to a pseudo community, Rodrigues said, “diversity is wearing the uniform; inclusion is playing in the game.”

Rodrigues said, expanding on his analogy, in order to get to the next level of inclusion, there must be authentic communication among the diverse student body. He said the best way to do this is by finding common ground with others rather than finding differences.

He said there are four elements needed for achieving inclusive excellence on campuses.

First, all opportunities should be equal and accessible to all students.  Second, there should be formal and informal diversity in the curriculum.

People should be exposed to diverse experiences on campus, Rodrigues said.

Another important and related element is student learning and development.

College needs to prepare students for the diverse world they will enter into upon graduating, Rodrigues said.

Lastly, Rodrigues said the campus climate must be open and accepting. Without a population willing to learn and accept others, there is no hope for inclusion, he said.

Jason Hodson, a junior at Winona State majoring in marketing, who attended the forum, said he feels “having a more diverse campus would help people to become more invested in diversity.”

Hodson said he trusted Rodrigues to have good intentions but found his goals unrealistic for a campus that Hodson believes lacks diversity.

Rodrigues said he finds diversity very important on a college campus but more importantly sees the need for inclusion.

As the chief diversity officer for MnSCU, Rodrigues is working to make it so, as he puts it, “our education is not a one size fits all, but speaks to every learner.”

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