University of Texas at AustinDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Campus Culture

Campus Culture Strategic Goal: Advance efforts to create an inclusive, accessible, and welcoming culture on campus.

On this page, you will find updated information and current activities within the Campus Culture goal. For more information about the goal and specific objectives, click here.

By Tony Vo, Multicultural Engagement Center

Working within a student resource space like the Multicultural Engagement Center (MEC), my primary interactions are with current UT students. Day in and day out, I get to talk and build relationship with students who have dreams of changing the world. They’re working towards degrees in science, policy, education, etc.; all hoping to affect positive change upon graduation.

As Outreach Coordinator of the MEC, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the other types of students I have the privilege of working with as well.  In coordination with DDCE’s college prep programs, I facilitate student panel Q&A’s for potential college students from high schools all over Texas.  They are predominately students of color, the first people in their family to potentially attend college, and their visit to UT is possibly the first time they’ve been on a college campus. Likewise, our panel participants are students of color from the same neighborhoods and school districts as our visiting groups, ready to share their personal journey to higher education. With the student panels, we invite all visiting students to ask questions about the college experience, how to prepare for college, and provide “real talk” about being a student of color on campus. The majority of students are engaged and ready to learn about college. In that 45-minute session they express their excitement to leave home, fear of being independent for the first time, worry that high school has not prepared them well enough to keep up, and everything in between.

We call what we do as ‘real talk,’ because we understand the realistic obstacles that often prevent our students from going to and/or succeeding in college. We talk about the importance of managing finances, of creating and sustaining community, of accessing preventative resources so they can succeed academically, socially and personally at UT. We urge them to think of higher education as not just personal growth but also community growth, that when they graduate and return to their hometown they have the capacity to make positive impact on their community. That’s our mission in the Multicultural Engagement Center for all students.

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By Brandelyn Flunder, Multicultural Engagement Center

Imagine over seventy-five emerging and established leaders all gathered in one room to discuss a topic that is both relevant to assessing their current experience and important to exploring their future potential. The first annual “State of Black UT,” or SOBUT, was the fulfillment of a semester long conversation by the Black Presidents’ Leadership Council. This group of dynamic students wanted to answer the question of what elements within the community had the most influence on the success or detriment of the Black community. The program opened with a brief historical perspective by Dr. Choquette Hamilton, Associate Director for Development in Black Studies, and culminated with a charge for action by Kyle Clark, Associate Director for New Student Services.

Preceding the program, Chelsea Jones, Director for External Relations for Afrikan American Affairs (an agency housed in the Multicultural Engagement Center), gathered data on students’ perceived engagement, comfort, and identity formation within the Black community. This information was presented at SOBUT as a segue to discussing issues (with the goal to apply what they learned to develop solutions based outcomes). For about 30 minutes, students gathered in peer facilitated groups to identify current challenges among the active Black population on campus and discuss obstacles to having a more cohesive community. Delegates then presented their themes to the general body and organized them based on their importance to advancing a more unified agenda. What emerged was a consistent list among all nine groups and an excitement to take the next steps.

Afrikan American Affairs representatives gathered the lists and have plans to present it to the new Leadership a Council in order to identify one issue per semester that each organization will actively pursue. The first annual State of Black UT convened a delegation of concerned students, conveyed a message of progress, countered a rhetoric of apathy, and created a mindset to generate positive and productive actions to move the community forward.

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By Kelli Bradley, Dr. Jennifer Maedgen, & Emily Shryock

ADA Student Forums:  Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) held two ADA Student Forums on February 25 and March 5th. The ADA Student Forums are a place for students to share their concerns and suggestions about campus accessibility and to provide feedback about their experiences as students with disabilities at UT. The University ADA Coordinator and SSD staff attended, and pizza was provided by the Student Government-Students with Disabilities Agency.  Some of the concerns that were addressed over the two days included Braille signage on specific buildings, questions about SSD testing reservation policies, accessible parking, and the need for a testing center at the University.

disABILITY Advocate training:  On March 4, SSD held an Open disABILITY Advocate Foundation training.  Open trainings are held once per semester and allow individuals to be trained as disABILITY Advocates.  disABILITY Advocate trainings are typically provided at the request of UT groups, organizations and departments.  Thirteen UT students and staff members attended the training, representing such areas as the International Office, Texas Parents, Vick Center for Strategic Advising/Undergraduate Studies, the School of Social Work and Student Emergency Services. Five staff members from the Office of Disability Services at Texas State University also attended in order to learn from the success of the disABILITY Advocate Program as they develop a similar type of outreach program at Texas State University. Participants engaged in learning and discussion and left with ideas and action steps they can implement within their role at UT to make campus a more welcoming, accessible, and inclusive environment for people with disabilities.

ATEC’s Coffee and Conversation Open House:   SSD and The Disability Student Advocacy Coalition (DASC) partnered to host an Assistive Technology (ATEC) Coffee and Conversations Open House on Wednesday, February 5.  Over 25 students and staff gathered to discuss what technologies work for them and to problem-solve specific issues like using IBM SPSS with screen magnification.  Everyone enjoyed the caffeinated beverages, healthy snacks and interesting discussions.  SSD and DASC plan to hold ATEC open houses every 6 weeks.

Asperger’s support group:   SSD is excited to announce the first meeting of a new support group for UT students with Asperger’s Syndrome.  We hope to provide an opportunity for students on the spectrum to have fun, socialize, and share ideas and experiences.  Beginning with a “meet and greet” on Wednesday, March 29th at 5:30pm in SSD, we plan to expand to regular meetings with guest speakers, game nights, and book discussions.  All UT students with Asperger’s Syndrome and other autism-spectrum diagnoses are welcome to attend.

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On February 6th, Shane Whalley, Education Coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center, met with a group of international visitors to talk about the Multicultural Engagement Center and the Gender and Sexuality Center.  These visitors were invited to the US under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.  Mx. Whalley discussed the mission of both centers and talked about the work that the students are doing.  Mx. Whalley answered questions about the history of the centers and how they are funded, the climate on campus, and general questions about human rights in the US.  Mx. Whalley gave them tours of both centers. The objectives of the program are listed below.

“The Department of State has outlined the following objectives for this project:

·  Gain an understanding of human rights and civil rights issues in U.S. domestic and foreign policy;

·  Examine the role and work of organizations that monitor international and domestic human rights issues;

·  Explore the work of grassroots organization that seek to influence human rights policy at the international, national, state and local levels;

·  Encourage international cooperation in protecting human rights; and

·  Gain an appreciation for U.S. ethnic, cultural and religious diversity and its contribution to U.S. society and political system.”

 

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There were five visitors, accompanied by a liaison from the program:

Japan

Ms. Tomoko ABE (OHTUSKI), Research Associate, Positive Living and Community Empowerment, TOKYO (PLACE TOKYO)

Ms. Hiromi Nagano AOKI, Reporter, Foreign News Section, Mainichi Shimbun

Mongolia

Ms. Oyunchimeg PUREV, Commissioner, National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia

Papua New Guinea

Mr. Clayton TUATA, Counselor, Leitana Women’s Organization

Philippines

Mr. John Piermont MONTILLA, National Council President, Kabataang Gabay sa Positibong Pamumuhay, Inc.

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First Campus Climate Trend Report Released

February 21, 2014

The Campus Climate Response Team has released the first Campus Climate Trend Report with data collected on bias incidents during the 2012-2013 academic year (including summer 2013). The report is available online by clicking here. “Because the CCRT includes representatives from a number of campus units, the entire campus community benefits from their efforts to address bias concerns […]

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