Speaker series strives to expand views on diversity

Christina Alexander

For its new speaker series, Multicultural Student Affairs programming will emphasize diversity issues as a whole rather than general race topics, Executive Director Carretta Cooke said this week.

The series – called Cultural Connections – will highlight two speakers each quarter who will address the many forms discrimination takes in today’s culture, Cooke said.

The series kicks off today with an appearance by Craig Wilkinson, the executive director of Outward Bound South Africa. The series will continue later this month with Shakti Butler, the creator of Heart-to-Heart Conversations.

The move away from strictly focusing on race reflects the changing face of Northwestern students and the world, Cooke said.

“I often hear, ‘Why should I have to define myself if I’m comfortable walking in many different cultures? Why should I have to explain who I am in terms of race?'” Cooke said.

The growing number of students who can claim ethnic ties with more than just one group also influenced the decision, Cooke added. Students now define themselves with characteristics other than race, she said.

“We now have students who walk in many different cultures,” Cooke said. “We even have some students who call themselves third culture.”

Both staff and students will choose the Cultural Connections speakers. Some speakers will be co-sponsored by interested campus groups, such as the Women’s Center or African American Student Affairs.

Cooke said she also consulted with colleagues at other academic institutions who are noticing increased globalization on college campuses.

Wilkinson and Butler are seasoned speakers with programs applicable across the globe.

Wilkinson – whose speech will focus on diversity by examining South Africa in a post-apartheid world – works closely with students and educators, providing learning experiences while combating poverty, according to the Outward Bound Web site.

Butler’s Heart-to-Heart Conversations comprise two videos, “The Way Home” and “Light in the Shadows,” which emphasize creating a dialogue between women of all nationalities, according to the Heart-to-Heart Conversations Web site.

“We wanted to look at the dynamic of culture in a way not solely centered around race because it’s not just about white and black,” Cooke said. Wilkinson will appear in Annenberg G15 at 7 p.m. today.

Butler is scheduled to speak in two separate sessions, one for students and one for faculty, on Oct. 31 in the Ohio State Room at the Norris University Center.

Reach Christina Alexander at [email protected]