Campus begins “Expanding Perspectives”

McKenna Scherer, Features Reporter

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Winona State University’s Inclusion and Diversity department will soon be introducing a week-long series titled Expanding Perspectives.

Running Sept. 23-27, the department will be hosting a variety of speakers and will be open to the public. Expanding Perspectives will be a reoccurring series every five weeks in the 2019-20 school year.

Jonathan Locust, associate vice president of the Inclusion and Diversity department, spoke on the creation of the event.

“We wanted to create something that people could look forward to,” Locust said.

Locust said the Inclusion and Diversity department is often perceived as a place strictly for students of color or those who identify or support the LGBTQ community and believes that the upcoming series will be vital to changing that perception.

The series will be a vessel to introduce students to the department, and is also an event that is aimed at including the faculty of Winona State and the community of Winona.

“I’ve come to understand that some of our programs that the department is known for, like HOPE Summer Academy, isn’t even for the campus as a whole,” Locust said. “So, that was a problem: one of our major programs that people know about isn’t even for the whole campus.”

Expanding Perspectives is a major collaboration of different majors at Winona State, working with science and engineering, liberal arts, nursing and health science, business and education majors in its debut week.

The series will be located in Kryzsko Commons, the Student Learning Center and the Harriet Johnson Auditorium, and include a large range of events to cater to the many different interests, populations of those on campus and people in the community.

Speakers will include storyteller Kevin Kling, Native American Grammy award winning artist Bill Miller and the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association. A talk on racism, sexism and LGBTQ issues will take place in the middle of the week. The end of the series will be a public showing of 2018 Academy Best Picture nominee “Roma.”

The series is also a facet of the 2019-20 university theme Career Readiness as many of the speakers will touch on what it is like building a career in a society where race, sex, disability and sexual orientation can heavily influence such opportunities.

Locust expressed excitement over one speaker in particular.

“[I’m excited for] all of the events, but Bill Miller in particular because I spoke with him to get an understanding of his story and of the continuous microaggressions and racism he’s experienced,” Locust said.

Miller will be sharing and speaking on many stories from his life, including living on reservations to winning a Grammy, all while intertwining his music into the presentation.

Locust has created the Expanding Perspectives project from the ground up, but also noted that while this type of work falls under his job description, there was also communication with the student organizations in the department.

“Since we have student organizations who fall under our office, we tapped into those organizations and asked, ‘what different things would you like to see?’” Locust said. “Which is one reason why we have Kevin Kling coming to speak about being successful with a disability.”

As stated on the Inclusion and Diversity Office website, “The ultimate aim of Winona State University’s commitment to cultural diversity is to empower students for successful living in a global society,” and the office is changing their working model to further that commitment’s success.

One of the changes the Inclusion and Diversity department has made for the 2019-20 year includes moving their main focus to specific populations on campus. Because of this, Expanding Perspectives will continue to touch on different topics throughout the year.

“Some people may ask, ‘why are you focusing on specific populations?’” Locust said. “And the reason for that is because we don’t want anyone to be, quote on quote, ‘left behind,’ if we know that we can look at data and see that there are specific populations not doing as well as others.”

While Winona State University has the highest graduation rate of students of color in the state of Minnesota, there will always be room for and reasons to improve efforts in inclusivity on campus.

With the collaborative efforts of Locust and Intercultural and Completion Coordinators Ne’Angela Edwards and Tyler Treptow-Bowman, the 2019-20 year has taken off with several other projects as well.

“For some students, [Winona State] is the most diverse place they’ve ever been, and for others, it’s the least diverse place they’ve ever been,” Locust said. “So, then how do we make sure we provide opportunities to be included?”

New efforts thus far in the school year from the department have included bringing in a barber from St. Paul, catering specifically to the male African American population on campus, on Sept 16.

“It’s very difficult for [students of color] to find a barber in Winona and a lot of them have to go to Rochester or to the cities to get a haircut,” Locust said. “Being able to explain and know that barbershops of color are different – cuturally– is significant.”

Locust explained how, when the idea was brought to President Scott Olson and the rest of the cabinet members, that it was huge for them to understand why that opportunity would be something students would want on campus, even though it was an idea they had not previously thought of.

Treptow-Bowman also worked with the LGBTQ+ organizations and community at Winona State to create a form that is sent along with others in the admission process for students to fill out regarding their identities. This was done to better account for the LGBTQ community at the university so the appropriate amount of funding and activities can be allotted.

Another main task that the office has worked on this year has been finding ways to support students and collect data in the most inclusive way they can, while making students comfortable.

“Why would we not want to put specific attention into these specific populations to make sure we have the right kinds of services and initiatives that they need in order to be successful,” Locust said.