By: TIM SCHMELING  | Graduate Assistant for Student Activities Rockford University

Diversity in programming is something we strive for at Rockford University (RU), and we aim to connect with as many different expres- sions of diversity as we can. No matter the type of event, there is always a way for it to expand into something even more inclusive to our students. On the RU campus, we are fortunate to have multiple offices responsible for planning and coordinating social programs. I work out of the Student Activities office, within the Student Life Department, and we strive do little things to make a big impact.

For example, when the students on our Campus Activities Board (CAB) plan to bring a musician or musical group to campus, we encourage them to look at bringing different genres of music to reach all parts of our student population. Last semester, we hosted a country music group and an EDM DJ. Next semester, we will host two hip-hop groups, a female singer-songwriter, a male R&B performer, and an open-mic night to feature student talent on campus. We actively encourage our CAB students to get excited about all the performers we bring to campus. We remind them that even if an artist or music genre is not their favorite, someone else may absolutely love it, and as hosts, they must respect their differences in their tastes. We do this to educate our students on how music is just one avenue of personal identity expression, and by showcasing different types of music, we show our commitment to diversity on campus. Who knew something as simple as a cover band could have such a massive impact!

Regardless of how hard CAB tries to plan a diverse events calendar, there are always concerns raised by students, faculty, and other staff that it does not represent their personal communities. Instead of ignoring these con- cerns, CAB actively encourages feedback! All feedback is important, especially when working in the rapidly changing college pro- gramming world. We encourage dissatisfied students to consider joining CAB, or another campus club or organization, and share their voice during the event planning process. We also actively connect concerned students/fac- ulty/staff with the appropriate parties to create positive change instead of negative stagna- tion.

One of the biggest events celebrating RU’s unique diversity, (one that requires the most planning and receives the most feedback), is our April Food Festival. The Food Fest is actually housed out of the Office of Global Af- fairs Department, with little direct involvement from Student Activities. Instead of standing by; however, we in Student Activities do our best to show active support of Office of Global Affairs and the Food Fest. This past April, I choreographed and taught a group of students Soran Bushi, a traditional Japanese dance. I myself am not Japanese, but I did not let that limit me from sharing a small piece of Japanese cul- ture with the students and the RU community. Through teaching Soran, I not only introduced a few students to a small part of Japanese cul- ture, but I also introduced them to a small part of what makes me unique and diverse. This coming April, a few students and I are going to explore the world of bungarra!

In short, we in Student Activities at RU try to highlight diversity in unique and creative ways. We understand diversity means more than looking or speaking differently; rather, it can also mean thinking, and listening or dancing, differently. Differences should be celebrat- ed instead of stigmatized. With that, I invite everyone to visit Rockford and Rockford Uni- versity and join us in a conversation on what we as all can do to empower our students. We are rock solid!