The University of La Verne honored its mission by promoting diversity awareness, particularly by holding the annual Diversity Forum on May 8.
The event commenced with a definition of diversity on the La Fetra Auditorium projection screen.
Julius Walecki, event organizer and professor of economics, read the definition, explaining that “diversity can be race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs or ideologies.”
ULV students – law school, business school and undergraduates alike –
were invited to submit an essay in February about their opinions of diversity in a school and academic setting.
“Each year about 20 essays are submitted,” Walecki said.
From there, essays were judged by six faculty members who each gave the essays a point grade. Points were combined and top scores were sent to Walecki.
“Four finalists are chosen to attend the Forum, where a total of $2,000 is awarded,” Walecki said.
The Diversity Forum has, in previous years, been an audience dominated by graduate students.
However, Walecki has since divided the contest into two separate groups for undergraduate and graduate levels.
This year for the undergraduates, first place was won by Molly Morin, a sociology and liberal studies senior, for her essay, “First Year Generation College Students: Social Support and Academic Success.”
“First year generation students face greater challenges,” Morin said. “They need greater support, which is more important from family than peers.”
One audience member, during the question portion of the essay presentation, asked how the school could help.
“I feel it can involve more faculty,” Morin said.
Further research and suggestions are listed in her essay.
Second place for an undergraduate essay was awarded to Veronica Perez, a senior studying computer science.
Her essay, “Using Technology to Create a Diverse Community,” explains the importance of diversity in higher education.
“I am working to implement a Blackboard community service, which will alert students of community events and promote diversity in a virtual community,” Perez said.
First place for the graduate level resulted in a tie between Gina Curasi and a team of Jason Rose and Chester Sant.
Curasi, a graduate student in the college counseling and student services program, wrote “Advocacy for the Success of College Students with Disabilities.”
“Themes of success include academic and social support, self-determination and empowerment,” Curasi said.
The other winner, a joint effort by two University of La Verne College of Law students, was entitled “Presidential Race.” This essay discussed the impact of race on the current presidential election.
“The Diversity Forum is important to the University because it addresses many stereotypes we have about diversity,” Walecki said. “We would like to recognize students’ talents.”
The Diversity Forum will continue to be an annual event for the University, but Walecki hopes to see a change in the amount of advertising and audience participation.
This year, students were alerted of the event via e-mail and Facebook, yet only 25 audience members attended the essay presentations.
Walecki aspires to do more to advertise the event next year, but is still extremely pleased with the students who submitted such intellectual and inspirational essays.
“I am impressed with the quality, research and passion in this year’s essays,” said Kathy Duncan, judge and assistant professor of management at the College of Business and Public Management. “I am hopeful that these conversations are taking place on campus.”
Lesley Michaels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.