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 Ixchel Rosal

This year the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has begun a research project to examine the impact of its Peers for Pride program.  The Gender and Sexuality Center provides opportunities for all members of the UT Austin community to explore, organize, and promote learning around issues of gender and sexuality. The center also facilitates a greater responsiveness to the needs of women and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and ally (LGBTQA) communities through education, outreach and advocacy.

The primary goal the GSC’s Peers for Pride (PfP) program is to train peer facilitators to lead workshops about sexual orientation and gender identity across the UT campus. Students in PfP earn academic credit for their participation in the year-long program. During the fall semester they take a course entitled, “Confronting LGBTQ Oppression: Exploring the Issues and Learning the Skills to Communicate Them,” where students learn basic facilitation skills while taking an in-depth look at some issues facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals. During the spring semester course, “Facilitating Dialogues on LGBTQ Oppression: Peers for Pride in Action,” peer facilitators have the opportunity to fine-tune their facilitation skills and lead workshops across campus.

The research study begun this year explores the narratives of Peers for Pride peer facilitators.  Through the lens of Harro’s Cycle of Socialization, the following research questions will guide the study:

  • How do facilitators conceptualize their participation in Peers for Pride?
  • Were facilitators able to develop a sense of agency and capacity?  In what ways did participation as a facilitator provide students with a greater sense of confidence that they could impact change and be effective leaders?
  • What implications emerge in terms of identity and peer leadership development?

Harro’s (2010) Cycle of Socialization articulates the process by which we are each born with a myriad of social identities (i.e. our social identity profile) related to gender, age, skin color, ethnicity, ability status, sexual orientation, etc, and are then socialized to play certain roles prescribed to those identities by an imbalanced social system of oppression.

This qualitative case study seeks to investigate the impact of participation in the Peers for Pride Program on peer educators by interviewing former Peers for Pride peer facilitators from the past five years.  According to Merriam, qualitative researchers are “interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how they make sense of their world and the experiences that they have in the world” (2001, p. 6).

Two primary data collection methods will be used: semi-structured interviews with former PfP facilitators and document review. One-hour semi-structured interviews will be conducted with the participants. The semi-structured interviews were designed specifically for this project and will focus on how the facilitators conceptualized participation in the program, as well as how participation was situated within the context of the institution.  The interview will help establish rapport with the participant, collect base-line data, and address the study’s research questions.

SI research fellow Dr. Kiersten Ferguson and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Stella Smith, are working closely with GSC staff on the design and implementation of the study.  Results from the study are anticipated to be available in fall, 2014.  For more information about the study please contact Ixchel Rosal (Director, GSC) at rosal@austin.utexas.edu.

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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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Student Diversity Initiatives Showcased for International Visitors

March 7, 2014

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 […]

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