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ISSUE 118 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/8/2004

Program encourages culture

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor

Friday, October 8, 2004

After last years successful pilot program to expose students to the many cultural events on campus, the office of Community Life and Diversity officially now offers the Diversity Card program as an option to all faculty members this year.

The Diversity Card system is a spin-off of the music departments "pink cards," and works the same way. For various cultural events, students can attend and receive a green Diversity Card.

Professors who choose to participate in the Diversity Card program encourage students to attend cultural events at St. Olaf and in the community, and have the option of using Diversity Cards in their classroom curriculum.

"It is completely up to the faculty member how to use the cards," said Tim Schroer, director of Buntrock Commons and associate dean of Community Life and Diversity. "Co-curricular activities mean more when they tie into what students are learning in the classroom."

Professors can incorporate Diversity Cards into their classes by using them as extra-credit, recommended activities or assignments.

"Were not trying to force feed diversity," Schroer said. "This program is not meant to twist peoples arms to attend the programs, but to encourage them."

This year, the Office of Community Life and Diversity put together a list of all cultural programs available to students, sent the list out to faculty members, and hired students to monitor the events. Students who attend an event pick up a green Cultural Diversity card and give it back to a monitor when the event is finished.

The Office of Community Life and Diversity also provides follow-up, informing professors which students attended certain events.

Diversity Cards were put into effect partly to encourage students to attend the many cultural opportunities on campus.

"In the past, the quick reaction to increase diversity was to increase programming," Schroer said. "Instead, we just need to encourage people to take advantage of the many programs we do have."

Last weeks production of Minnecanos by the Mixed Blood Theatre was a Diversity Card event, for example.

Eida Berrio, dean of Community Life and Diversity, said cultural events are quite often sparsely attended, and only include those who are celebrating.

"The majority shies away from the events and there is no mix," Berrio said. "There is an unintended feeling of alienation when the only ones who attend events are those who are celebrating their culture."

Berrio hopes that the Diversity Cards will make all students feel more welcome at functions.

"The students putting the programs together will feel appreciated, and the students who attend will enhance their educational experience outside the classroom," Berrio said.

So far, Diversity Cards have received positive feedback from all parties.

"Weve had some monitors who say they wouldnt have gone to a program if they werent monitoring," Berrio said. "When it is over, they tell me that they really enjoyed it, and sign up to monitor more events."

While there has been no major systematic review, Schroer has also heard positive feedback.

"The program is still fairly small and will take some time to grow," he said.

Schroer expects to see "lots of little rewards everywhere" with the new system.

The Office of Community Life and Development hopes that the cards will increase cultural awareness at St. Olaf.

Schroer explained how cultural programming "exposes people to new things, and encourages them to think outside their world."

Berrio would love to see every faculty member use the Diversity Card program in the future.

"Students should not leave campus without being exposed to different cultures," she said.

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