Unity in Diversity Day: A reason to listen, share, learn
After a positive experience last year, the author encourages the campus to attend this year's April 11 event
As a student at UNR, I often wake up and open my email first thing. We receive all sorts of emails about upcoming events and opportunities for students on and beyond campus. Most of the time, I read through them looking for scholarship applications or information on conferences, typical of any Ph.D. student.
Last year, however, I took the time to read about the Unity in Diversity event organized by the GSA. They were seeking speakers to give presentations on the broad topic of "Breaking Down Stereotypes." My own research, especially at that period, focused on the stereotypes associated with Basque migrants in the West as a way of understanding how host communities categorized the Basques and the difficulties these migrants encountered. However, the call for speakers asked for personal stories, which made me hesitant at first.
As a historian within the Center for Basque Studies, I have spent my academic career studying others, not myself. But having just moved back to the States after a six-year stint in the Basque Country, I was very much aware of the views others had of me, whether they were Americans always associating me as an immigrant or Basques never quite accepting me as Basque.
The evaluation of our proposals would be based on the "3 C's: Content, Creativity, and Confidence." These are three areas I believe we all strive to fulfill as students, but I thought that being given the chance to be creative when talking about my own experience would help in my own confidence and understanding of my own hyphenated identity.
After several rounds of interviews, I was happy, and shocked at the same time, to be accepted. What had begun as an experiment in my own speaking abilities in a non-academic environment became a reality. Working with Amandeep Gill and Dr. Veronica Zepeda, I pushed myself to interact with the audience, sharing my own story and pictures of my childhood. With their help, and extraordinary organizational experience, I felt prepared once I confronted the event itself.
The day of the Unity in Diversity event I met the fellow speakers and was impressed by the range of topics and personal stories we all had to share. We all reflected on stereotypes in our own ways, using humor as well as sadness. The ballroom was packed, and the smells of different foods from around the world had everyone in a good mood. By the time I presented, I felt like we all were there for a reason: to listen to each other. This act of being attentive and empathetic is a skill we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. The GSA's Unity in Diversity event fosters an environment of understanding and celebrating differences instead of stereotypes.
This year, the event is scheduled for April 11, the third event of its kind. When I received the email calling for presenters, I sent it to all my students and colleagues, hoping to inspire them to go through the same process of self-reflection and presentation. Our campus is diverse, and we should celebrate it through compassion. I can't wait for this year's event and congratulate the GSA in the great work that they provide for UNR. The name of this event, Unity in Diversity, is a long-standing goal of any community, but together, by understanding others and spending time with new people, we will inch and then leap our way forward toward harmony and solidarity.