Nicole Wilson, Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings and Anne Lombard discussed gender at Diversity Day of Learning
Mickey Hart moderated the LGBT discussion
Joan Waggoner discusses life in Appalachia as Vincent Jungkunz takes notes
Jan 28, 2011
By George Mauzy
Diversity can be a difficult word to define and even harder to discuss, but Ohio University faculty and staff did that and more during Wednesday's Diversity Day of Learning.
The first-time event, which was sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Access and Equity, and University Human Resources, kicked off the monthly Diversity Seminar Series.
Panelists represented an assortment of underrepresented diversity groups who addressed race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and a host of other topics.
The day's first panel addressed socioeconomic, race and class issues. Joan Waggoner, coordinator of professional internships in teaching at the Patton College of Education and Human Services, talked about growing up and raising a family in Appalachia. Assistant Professor of Political Science Vincent Jungkunz recalled several incidents where he benefitted from white privilege while he was married to an African-American woman.
Clinical Supervisor of Speech and Language Pathology Janice Wright told the audience that she is often stereotyped as the product of a poor, inner city background because of her African-American ancestry. Patton College Assistant Professor Nikol Bowen talked about her challenges as a single African-American mother working and living in southeast Ohio.
Assistant Professor of Political Science Tehama Lopez explained the culture shock she experienced when she moved from an extremely diverse Los Angeles neighborhood to a mostly Caucasian New
Hampshire town with her mother as a 13-year-old Mexican-American.
The panelists also commented on the future of diversity in America.
Wright said she trains her students to consider race on a daily basis.
"That's what breaks down barriers," she said. "People get caught up in their box – they don't know the differences in people and their history. All of my students have to do community service."
Lopez said she is encouraged by college students who are compassionate and forgiving when it comes to diversity and race.
"When people resist being treated less than human, that brings us hope," Lopez said. "When I speak out I can better live with myself."
During the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) session, panelists discussed how coming out about their sexuality was life changing. They also commented on the state of LGBT issues on campus.
Voinovich School Research Associate Kate Leeman said she came out in her early 20s and the fear of knowing the bad things that can happen to gay people in our society impacts her life every day.
Jill Bateman, social media managers and producer at University Communications and Marketing, said her first coming out was to God while she was an evangelical Christian missionary. She said her sexuality intersects with her faith, and she still maintains her spirituality despite being shunned by many churches.
"I can't separate the two things (faith and sexuality)," Bateman said. "I see diversity as embracing. I'm hoping days like today allow us to take our masks off and come closer to that goal of embracing."
Brian McCoy, administrative associate with the Literacy Center, said he felt like a second-class employee until he was granted same-sex benefits for his husband several years ago. He added that there are many misnomers people have about gay people.
"Many people think gays are sexual mongers who all have multiple partners," McCoy said. "We are more like you than you think and we have the same goals and dreams as you."
Some of the all-women gender panel said they didn't necessarily identify themselves as a woman before considering their race.
Former Ohio University administrator Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings said she always identified with her ethnicity (Puerto Rican and African-American) first, despite being raised by her African-American mother since the age of nine.
"Being a woman didn't have any impact on my life," Vazquez-Skillings said. "I didn't notice there was this layering affect of being all three (female, African American, Puerto Rican). It wasn't until I was promoted on the job that I started to see that being a woman did make a difference."
Many panelists offered their personal definitions of diversity.
Patton College Assistant Professor Yegan Pillay said we need to see diversity in society as a bowl of fruit where each piece is unique, but maintains its own identity.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Anne Lombard described diversity as a mosaic where each little part makes up the big picture.
Recently retired WOUB Director Carolyn Bailey-Lewis said diversity is ever changing. She admitted that she discovered diversity was broader than race when an illness confined her to a wheel chair.
Among the many other topics discussed by panelists were the international component of diversity, the challenges of being disabled on campus and the diversity strategies used by management.
After the final panel of the day, Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity Brian Bridges shared some parting words with the audience.
"I'm sure everyone took some little nugget of information and will be able to take advantage of the (diversity) exposure and transfer that into some experience, exploration and education,"
Bridges said. "Hopefully we all learned something today that will enlighten us even further."
To watch an archived webstream from the Diversity Day of Learning, click here.