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Meet the Office of Student Multicultural & Diversity Programs
Dedicated to “developing programs and resources that promote multicultural and social justice awareness, education and appreciation,” the Office of Student Multicultural & Diversity Programs, which is one of the four units of Student Life, has been officially a resource for the UAB community since October 1 of this year. Striving to be both a supporter and incubator for the “growth of students’ attitudes, ideas, and behaviors as they relate to multicultural issues and personal and social identities,” the new office has already sponsored and spearheaded Hispanic Heritage Month, Out Week, and Native American Heritage Month in its infancy.
The Kaleidoscope sat down with the office’s two top officers for an interview.
According to Christopher Jones, the Program Director of Multicultural Diversity & Programs, and Director of B-MEN, a peer mentoring program is designed to facilitate student success and retention of students of color, the office was conceived because “UAB has a core value for diversity, and the students, faculty, and staff presented a need for such an office.” He continued by saying that “most of the programs were coming out of Student Life, so the formation of our office came naturally.”
Specifying the “need” that was presented, Jones remarked that “our campus is invested in diversity, and having a central office that is responsible for putting on various social justice and diversity programming is a necessary fit for our campus.”
When asked about some of the accomplishments of the office since its inception at the beginning of October, Raphael Richard, the Coordinator of Multicultural Diversity & Programs as well as the adviser for the UAB Multicultural Council and the UAB International Mentors, stated that “many of the programs in the office have already existed in the UAB campus community, so since October 1 what we have been able to do is get our students, student leaders, faculty and staff who are involved in some of these programs working more closely together.”
“That has been a large goal of ours,” he added, “to get our students working together.”
Jones tagged on by stating that “our primary goal is to educate the campus on diversity and social justice issues within our campus and within our community, and to extend what students are learning in the classroom to programs and activities outside the classroom.”
Affirming Jones, Richard detailed that thought by saying that “adding very intentional and specific education pieces, and providing training off of best practices and curriculum and actually defining things like social justice, race, and oppression,” he continued, “so having a curriculum-based multicultural education piece is a goal, which can hopefully be realized within the next academic term.”
Pointing to current programs that currently embody these ideals, like Free Food for Thought, which has been revitalized to center around educational dialogue and training, and Safe Zone, they both hope to expand the scope of training and curriculum in the future.
The office also integrates student leadership, as the facilitators of the Free Food for Thought dialogue are students, and many events have been shaped through the Multicultural Council. Additionally, Safe Zone also incorporates peer educators to enrich the diversity trainings.
Another endeavor undertaken by the office has been their Diversity 101 session visits, “Who’s in the Room”, which has been conducted in over 20 College of Arts & Sciences Freshman-Year-Experience courses, which is intended to provoke conversations about intersectionalities about identity, cultural awareness, and social justice.
When asked about the reception of the office, Jones responded by saying “I think [it's] been good; I think students are excited that we actually have an office here on campus, particularly students from under-served groups here on campus.” Jones, in an act of foreshadowing added that “something that we are striving to do is to bring more awareness around our office for the entire campus community, so during Community Week we plan to have an open house for our office for faculty and staff and some students to come and learn more about our office.”
Richard, giving his final remarks, stressed that, “we want the campus community to know they have a place to go,” expressing that, “research shows that historically underrepresented groups since college inception in the U.S. (i.e. low income groups regardless of race or ethnicity, African-American, Native American, Hispanic & Latino, those with disabilities, women, LGBTQ+, or any students who feel their identities have been marginalized) don’t feel like they have a place to go on campus, so largely our office not only serves as a place to program but also a space to go, so if students have anything to talk about, class concerns, if they have anything going on in their personal life, it can also serve in a sense as an adviser helping them find the right resources on campus and in the Birmingham community.”
“This is not just a programming and activities office,” Richard reiterates, “but we also provide educational services, and a space for students who feel like they do not have a space here on campus.”
The office is located in UAB Campus Recreation Center room 190 and is open Monday-Friday from 9 am – 5 pm.