In an effort to promote continuous cultural learning and identity development, the Office of Multicultural Affairs announced its theme for the year: 365U.
Tyrone Russell, the director of Multicultural Affairs, said the theme means to “carry all of your identities in every place that you go and not be scared, not be ashamed, not be shy to show who you are to the campus community and ultimately to the world at large.”
At the end of the last school year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs asked its student workers what the campus would look like if students did not have to deal with the problematic social issues that pervade campus.
“A lot of it had to deal with students not being comfortable with who they are,“ said Russell. “People doing things to get into parties that they wouldn’t do on a regular basis and then go home and regret it, they talked about people not being able to speak up in class because of the feeling they get when a professor looks at them.”
Gladys Castellon, the president of Mu Sigma Upsilon, said the idea behind 365U is that identities can and should be discussed every day.
“I think it’s going to open up the opportunity to learn about each other and the different cultures that we have,” she said. “If someone wants to learn about Hispanic immigration, they don’t have to wait for September (National Hispanic Heritage Month) to do it.”
The goal of 365U is to challenge people to think about identities outside of just a month, Castellon said.
“Because why only give Lehigh the chance to learn about this culture at a specific time, let’s allow the folks around here to learn about us, and you learn about you every day of the year,” Russell added.
He also said that in order to promote cultural learning without the influence of stereotypes, it’s important for one to feel comfortable with their own identity.
“You should be able to raise your hand and ask those (cultural) questions,” he said.
For the past three years the Office of Multicultural Affairs has been combining efforts with the Women’s Center and the Pride Center.
“We have been talking a lot about the intersection of your identities and how some people will be different people depending on where they are,” Russell said. “We are trying to teach our students that you need and you should be you everywhere and every day of the year.”
He explained that if students are without the confidence to be completely themselves on campus, they don’t have a connection to Lehigh as the person they truly are.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs has several programs currently in the making to go along with the year’s theme.
One of these programs is a career development day where students will participate in a mock interview process and be given feedback on what they did well and what they can improve upon. The hope is that this will lead to a conversation with some Bethlehem businesses, the Big Four accounting firms and some engineering firms.
Russell hopes experiences such as these will lead to talks about “what it means to be you in your interview what it means to be you in the job – things you can wear, the things that you can say, the way you can wear your hair and still maintain your identity without losing yourself in exchange for a position at a company.”