If you are a student at SUU you are probably familiar with the acronym CDI. But what exactly is that?
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) is the place where students from all backgrounds gather. No matter the ethnicity, gender identity, age, major, sexuality, economic status or literally any other part of an individual’s identity, all are welcome and valid here as well as celebrated.
As Maria Martinez, the Director for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, said, “Our name is diversity and inclusion. We are all about including and hearing everyone’s voices and making those voices louder.”
For some students at SUU, the CDI is about having a kind of home away from home, especially when they are coming to SUU and Cedar City from a community that may have been more diverse and culturally conscious. Sunny Sims, a senior political science major from Las Vegas, Nevada says, “Sometimes I will find myself in here because it’s where I feel the most comfortable. Here it’s like I can just be myself.”
Colleges in the United States of America in this modern age have increased in diversity of their undergraduate student population since the early 2000s. This seems like a great thing to hear, right? However, just because something is considered to be a nationwide statistic does not mean it is the truth for every individual college and university across the US.
Many students who choose and are able to attend a college or university after graduating from high school are excited to get the chance to meet other students from backgrounds different to theirs and learn more about the world and themselves through these individuals. That, however, could be difficult to do at SUU if students do not seek out such opportunities to learn by actually reaching outside of what they are used to and grew up around. How can you discover new things or meet new and different people if you never take a chance to do so?
The CDI can give students some of those chances. The cultural events that the CDI and its clubs put on throughout the academic year are not “members only” or gated affairs that only a select group can get into. Whether it is a pageant, a cultural showcase, or any of their other events, the CDI welcomes everyone to come out and take part.
For many students who come from outside of Utah or have different backgrounds, the CDI is the one place where they feel like they can find a community that they completely belong to.
“All around here you find people who are not necessarily from their exact same backgrounds, but who have a lot of the same struggles and challenges on campus,” said Alyssa Backman, a senior biology major from Brigham City.
According to research and polls done by the website College Factual, the ethnic breakdown of SUU’s undergraduate students is below the national average at colleges. Southern Utah University has been ranked at number 893 out of 2,475 in overall diversity and 1,898 out of 2,718 nationwide in ethnic diversity. The percentage of Caucasian undergraduate students at SUU is 74.5 percent with 88.2 percent of the working faculty at the college also being white. When it comes to representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, SUU cannot even be found on the Campus Pride Index.
Creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive campus does not just mean that students are able to create a safe and positive space for themselves. It also means that the campus itself has and continues to foster an environment of learning and open-mindedness.
The community of a university cannot separate itself into an “us and them” mentality. Inclusion means including every person regardless of the differences there may be between individuals. As Sims put it, “It’s not just about looking for other people who look like you. We all look for other people who share the same interests, struggle and story as we do. Not just the same background or skin color.”
The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is located in the Sharwan Smith Student Center in room 101 and is open for general use Monday through Friday from 8am to 11pm.
Story By: Carlee Jo Blumenthal
Photo By: Easton Bowring