Celebrating Our Diversity

Story by Brian McDonald

Photos Courtesy of CMSS

It’s every college’s job to create an inclusive and diverse environment on its respective campus. JMU is no different. As the demographics on campuses continue to change, colleges are creating more opportunities to provide a welcoming space re ective of the students represented.

The Center for Multicultural Student Services is one of the biggest centers on campus and works to ensure a safe environment is produced. CMSS was started in 1985; and its current associate director, De’Shay Turner, is making sure that inclusion and diversity are well represented in 2017 through the efforts of his center. CMSS provides “educational and celebratory programs and services that support an inclusive campus community, in which members value diversity amongst themselves and others,” Turner says.

To Turner and the rest of the department, this simply means creating a comfortable opportunity for students on campus regardless of their background. In addition, Turner and other CMSS department members are committed to holding events, and other activities encourage an inclusive environment for students, a welcomed responsibility they are proud to be accountable for.

That “good cheer of diversity” is spread through various events, programs, and public speaking events that CMSS promotes, or sponsors. Turner looks forward to Def Poetry Jam, an event open to all students at the start of every semester. “With Def Poetry jam, we bring in an awesome cast of diverse poets from a company based out of New York City and New Jersey… and they are using poetry to tell their own personal stories and other stories,” Turner says. This event, usually on the rst Thursday of a new semester, is a department favorite. “I love that program for a number of reasons, one of which being I think it’s a safe and fun way for students to come and celebrate diversity, and it is usually one of the rst events that students come to on campus.” This event is unique because it kicks off with an open mic, allowing students to showcase their talents.

CMSS also shares its celebration of through a student-led subgroup called D.E.E.P Impact. The acronym, which stands for diversity education empowerment program, is a group of student educators who’ve been trained by CMSS to facilitate discussions in diversity, inclusion and social injustice. Throughout the year D.E.E.P Impact will engage in dialogues surrounding a wide range of subjects.

“Every program can’t be about Black Lives Matter,” Turner says. “It’s important that we have the Black Lives Matter program, but it’s also important that we have the LGBTQ program, it’s also important that we have the program that’s based on ability.” This ensures CMSS covers a wide range of topics, educating students on topics specifc to their beliefs.

In addition to its dialogues, D.E.E.P Impact also engages in cultural series programs, which includes guest speakers and additional media and outreach programs in which people can submit a request asking D.E.E.P Impact to cover a speci c topic; and the educators believe that peer to peer connection can be impactful. “Just having that conversation about diversity and inclusion is super important,” says Destiny Foley, junior D.E.E.P Impact Diversity Educator, “especially when it comes to identities that you don’t hold yourself.” This is a sentiment held by other Diversity Educators as well.

“I think D.E.E.P Impact events create a good space to talk about uncomfortable or challenging questions,” says Arielle Cromer, senior D.E.E.P Impact Diversity Educator, “and it can hopefully help people to go out into the world and look at people in a more inclusive light.” Beyond the various events and programs CMSS has to offer, it is also unique in that it serves as a center for students to come and hang out. “We just want to be a support system for students … students just spend time here and we want to provide that space to students where they say, ‘This is where I can be me,’” Turner says.

Sometimes, that just means having a place to pop your head in and say, “What’s up?” This speaks to another CMSS role, creating a place students feel is a home away from home. “When you think of home, I hope that for most people home is a comforting word and a comforting feeling,” Turner says. Although the hope is that a student can nd that space anywhere on campus, “if a student feels that CMSS is the place where I can best do that, then that is OK, too.”

CMSS is located in Taylor Hall in the Bluestone area.

Email: multicultural@jmu.edu Associate Director De’Shay Turner: turnerdd@jmu.edu

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