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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

Dean Berrio advocates for culture and diversity

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, October 11, 2002

Dean of Community Life and Diversity Eida Berrio has been an advocate for minorities and educational achievement most of her life. In her new position, she continues to encourage all students to embrace the diverse community at St. Olaf. Berrio was raised in Panama City with her six siblings until she was 12 years old. Her father passed away when she was young, leaving her mother to provide a strong work ethic and passionate interest in education to her children. With the advice of her two sisters, Berrio's mother traveled to New York to attain a visa and bring her children to their new home. Latin America could not offer the knowledge and promise of an accessible and good education, so her mother brought Berrio traveled to St. Olaf more than two years ago. It was an attractive place to work for her because she said most of the diversity work she did in her spare time fit the job description of dean of community life and diversity. Before she came to Northfield almost three years ago, however, Berrio said St. Olaf had a completely different meaning to her. "I had never been to Minnesota and never heard of St. Olaf," she said. "I thought it was the Golden Girls' hometown and so did my friends." Berrio said she was impressed that St. Olaf not only talked about achieving diversity, but also followed through by creating a special position to support that mission. Now that the commitment to diversity is established in the fiber of the college, she said she hopes the entire student body will get involved with different cultural opportunities and embrace the knowledge they have to offer. Berrio said she is passionate about human equality and respect for people from all backgrounds and cultures. "I get very upset with people who are disrespectful to others," Berrio said. "Why is it that when people get a little more than others - money, education - they think they are above someone else? We are all equal. We all want to be treated with respect and consideration." "I like to learn about different things, different cultures and religions, which is why it's hard for me to understand why people are so judgmental and shut off to others," she said. "It's a problem in the world when we don't know about something, but pass judgment anyway." Berrio said she loves seeing diversity at work, like the blend of students that danced and had fun at the recent Sabor Tropical dance. She hopes that more students will attend events hosted by minority groups to appreciate diversity. "I hope we can fully recognize and value the gift that each student brings," Berrio said.

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