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IU Northwest diversity programming is fun, but also ensures acceptance, student success

Tuesday Oct 01, 2013

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs (ODEMA) at Indiana University Northwest serves up some of the best entertainment on campus.

In the past year, the office has hosted free salsa lessons, shown some thought-provoking movies, and dished out some great ethnic food. On the surface, it may seem ODEMA exists to enhance the campus’s social life. But, there is so much more to the engaging events that are carefully thought out by ODEMA, in partnership with other campus departments and student groups.

According to James Wallace, director of ODEMA, the office works closely with the academic departments so the content of the programming is parallel with the material covered in courses. Perhaps that is part of the secret: Serve up fun and entertainment, and people will subsequently become more inclusive, accepting and educated about cultures and lifestyles different than their own.

“The programming helps to illustrate and bring life to the concepts students are studying,” Wallace said.

As one example, the campus recently launched its second community-wide reading initiative, “One Book … One Campus … One Community.” Coursework and events are centered on the themes of this year’s read, “The House on Mango Street,” serving to educate both the campus and greater community.

Diversity is really about how we’re similar, not different

Wallace said it’s common to think about diversity programming as celebrating and embracing one’s cultural differences. But really, he likes to think about it as an ongoing discussion about our similarities.

In fact, celebrating our similarities is the theme of much of the programming for the 2013-14 academic year.

“We want to create a welcoming environment for all,” Wallace said. “We want to have an environment where all feel welcome and learn and grow and reach their full potential. The programming that we have is designed to celebrate cultures – all cultures.”

Wallace explained that when a person is educated about other cultures and lifestyles, they naturally become more accepting, as opposed to just tolerant of others. Sometimes, however, he said, even the most accepting individuals can make a person feel uncomfortable without even realizing it. Those are the things that are a detriment to others’ academic experiences.

“You might not go out of your way to make someone uncomfortable but sometimes people do things unconsciously and they don’t realize they are doing it, but it has an effect on another individual that causes them not to want to engage,” Wallace said. “Eliminating that spirit is what this programming aims to accomplish.”

The bottom line is student success and helping every student succeed, and thrive.

“When students have more pride in themselves, and they discover there are notable people from their culture who have made contributions to society, they can envision themselves as one of those people, and they tend to do better academically,” Wallace said.

To learn more about diversity programming for IU Northwest, contact The Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs at (219) 980-6601. Or, visit

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