New diversity tool helps bring awareness to campus

by Laura Smith, October 27, 2009 for The Pendulum

On Tuesday, the Multicultural Center and the Office of Student Life premiered its newest diversity education tool, “Deep Impact,” at the Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing.

“Deep Impact” is a short film created by Elon’s student film society, Cinelon, to initiate discussions on race, class, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities and religion.

There are eight different vignettes included, which discuss these seven types of diversity topics as well as monologues from the Black Box Theater. After each vignette, there is a series of educational exercises that can be completed.

“It’s great. It makes you look at a lot of different things,” said Kelsey Glover, student coordinator for the Diversity Emerging Education Program. DEEP has been instrumental in publicizing the event on campus.

The film builds upon the total Deep Impact education initiative, which, in its entirety, is a multimedia diversity education tool by the Multicultural Center and the Office of Student Life. In addition to the film, there is an educational curriculum and diversity education training manual which are set to be released sometime at the end of next month.

When complete, the entire tool will consist of a DVD of the film as well as the finished manual for use by all student organizations, classes and departments at Elon.

The tool comes from a grant by the Guilford Green Foundation, which offers funds for community improvement projects. A Deep Impact committee was created after the grant was given. MarQuita Barker, assistant director of residence life, used to work with the Multicultural Center and was on the committee.

“We wanted to use a diversity training tool that anyone could use across campus,” she said. “I think it will show real life scenarios that college students actually base on a daily basis.”

The curriculum for the initiative was created by Leon Williams, director of the Multicultural Center. Williams has been in diversity education for about 17 years and utilized what he’s learned from his experiences for this project, he said.

“It’s designed as a conversation starter,” Williams said. “This manual and instrument will allow you to start the discussion.”

Melissa Jordan, assistant director of Residence Life and the Multicultural Center, has been helping Williams with the project.

“I think Deep Impact is going to be a wonderful part of our retention climate,” Jordan said. “Efforts that will be made will help students have those conversations and a higher level of consciousness.”

The film’s premiere on Tuesday was the kick-off for the entire initiative.

Senior Ryan Mintz, Cinelon president, was in charge of planning the film from beginning to end.

“Conveniently, the Multicultural Center had a notebook filled with true stories of real people, so we took those ideas with the plan of creating  eight vignettes, eight short scripts, each of which was based on a true story dealing with a different branch of diversity,” Mintz said.

From there, Mintz formed a creativity team, planned shoots, wrote scripts and cast actors.

“When I started the project, I was aware it was an educational tool in the back of my mind, but the most important part for me was to keep it from being an ‘after-school special,'” he said. “We put a lot of effort into telling stories that would hit home and have a sense of realism. People are so desensitized to multicultural issues. This is a good tool because it will offend people and make them think”

Williams is hoping to eventually get a copyright for the Deep Impact  tool and sell it to other colleges and universities.

In addition to the curriculum, the Multicultural Center will offer diversity training to Elon faculty and staff. There has already been one training workshop, with the next scheduled to take place next week. The training exercises coincide with the curriculum and will help facilitate discussion on diversity, according to Williams.

“I think it will reshape the campus climate,” Williams said. “It will become more integrated and at the same time build advocacy around efforts we’re doing in the multicultural center and what teachers are doing in the classroom.”

Glover is looking forward to the awareness the tool will bring to campus.

“I don’t feel like Elon consciously deals with diversity on an everyday basis, especially outside the classroom,” Glover said. “People don’t step back and realize how much Elon has to offer. I hope people will have appreciation where there is (diversity) and take it with them into the workplace. It will make them a cut above.”

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