VU welcome project promotes diversity dialogue

2012-10-23T22:00:00Z VU welcome project promotes diversity dialogueSUSAN EMERY Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
October 23, 2012 10:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Valparaiso University is rolling out an initiative to increase discussion about issues of diversity on and off campus.

University representatives Allison Schuette and Scott Ochander outlined The Changing Faces of Our Communities: a Presentation of the Welcome Project to members of the city's Advisory Human Relations Council at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday at City Hall.

The presentation included video and audio clips of minority students at VU who shared how they had been treated on campus and in the community.

A Chinese student said she and others were verbally assaulted with racial slurs from people driving by in a car in Valparaiso.

An African-American student from Chicago said he has been stopped by campus and city police more than 20 times for no apparent reason, with no tickets issued.

Not all the stories were negative. A student from Kazakhstan said he had been stranded after missing his stop on the South Shore Line and received help from passers-by.

Schuette, a VU associate professor, asked council members to discuss reactions to the stories. She and Ochander also sought input on the effectiveness of the presentation and what organizations in the community might benefit from it.

Ochander, vice president for integrated marketing and communications at VU, said the university's strategic plan calls for the student body to grow to 6,000 and a large part of this growth will be from domestic minorities and international students.

The university currently enrolls 397 international students, or 10 percent of the student body. Domestic minorities make up about 19 percent of students.

The city of Valparaiso is becoming more diverse as well, Ochander said. He cited statistics from the 2000 and 2010 census that showed the number of African-Americans has grown from 1.8 percent to 3.3 percent and the number of Hispanics, from 3.3 percent to 7.1 percent.

“We really see this as a community issue, not just a university issue,” Ochander said.

The council also heard a presentation by Sandy Carlson, vice president of clinical services with Porter-Starke Services, about the organization's Inspiration Project: Stories that Strengthen Us.

Carlson said the project aims to connect employees and members of organizations through an essay writing exercise in which people describe one of their core beliefs, values and life experiences.

“It gives people an awareness and affinity for one another,” Carlson said.

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