Diversity Week kicks off its shoes

EWU Diversity Coordinator encourages students to ‘walk a mile’

By Jaclyn Archer, Eagle Life Editor

The used, circular paint palette is circumscribed by a rainbow of footprints broken up by the words, “Walk a mile … It’s a start.” In the center is a red cap featuring the EWU eagle and the words “Diversity Week.”

“Diversity Week is an opportunity for our campus community to learn about what makes each of us unique … to allow us to open ourselves to different perspectives and learn from others,” said Kimberlee Davis, Human Resource associate and Diversity Week coordinator, in an email interview.

Davis said the theme, “Walk a mile … It’s a start,” is a reference to the proverb that advises people to suspend judgement of others until they have “walked a mile in their shoes.”

“The reality is that we cannot live someone else’s journey,” said Davis. “So we take a step toward that understanding by coming together to learn about someone else’s experiences.”

This week marks Eastern’s fourth annual Diversity Week, which Davis has helped plan since its inception in 2012. This year, Diversity Week features a variety of events including a keynote address by EWU President Mary Cullinan, Ph. D., recreational soccer, giveaways and seven lessons in diversity offered throughout the day on May 13.

The diversity lessons will be led by faculty members and students who will present on a variety of topics including race, religion, undocumented students, psychiatric disability and music.

Jody Graves, who will offer diversity lesson 6 at 2 p.m. in Hargreaves 201, will offer a presentation titled “Music Transcends the Middle East Conflict-One Note at a Time.”

“University means ‘the unity of diversity’ and as a university, this kind of educational opportunity should be at the core of our curriculum … not at the periphery!” said Graves in an email interview.

Graves continued, “I believe that when we come together and share our experiences, especially from around the world, students are inspired to consider how they can develop their own gifts and talents as contributors to our culture, and not just as competitors. I also believe that knowledge and education truly is the answer to global conflicts … one step (or note) at a time.”

Julie Griffis, a mediator and investigator for Human Resources, Rights and Risk, will offer diversity lesson 4 at noon in Hargreaves 201. Her talk, titled “Disabilities in Diversity: Psychiatric Disabilities,” is intended not only to educate but to help change popular mindsets surrounding mental illness.

“People with psychiatric disabilities not only have to live with their illness but they have to live with the stigma of having a ‘mental illness,’” said Griffis in an email interview.

“At first, working with people with psychiatric disabilities, people are afraid. Afraid of what ‘they’ might do; afraid of how ‘they’ might respond. However, once you recognize that we come in contact with people everyday who are managing their illness; who are just working on leading a normal life; who want to feel love and acceptance like each one of us, you realize that ‘they’ are not so different from those of us who are ‘normal,’” said Griffis, citing her experience as an administrative staff member at Eastern State Hospital as the foundation of a unique perspective, someone who interacted regularly with the mentally disabled in an everyday, non-treatment capacity.

Davis encouraged students to take advantage of the Diversity Week events, including a competition to design the Diversity Week 2016 theme and logo. Furthermore, the President’s Committee on Diversity invites students to offer feedback about Diversity Week at sites.ewu.edu/diversity.

“These Diversity Week events are for them. All the time, fundraising and energy are to provide our students with a voice, a safe place to talk and an opportunity to grow with us,” said Davis.