Students embrace race issues

By Linda Luk

Twenty-nine students gathered at NIU’s Lorado Taft Field Campus to engage in a weekend retreat exploring racial issues for the second annual Dialogue on Race.

Sponsored by the Counseling and Student Development Center, the dialogue, held Friday and Saturday, had participants representing various racial groups on campus.

Kathy Hotelling, director of the Counseling and Student Development Center, said some of the purposes and goals of this program are to allow students to talk seriously with other students about racial issues; to learn more about the experience of different races; and to take the experience of the retreat and apply it to any leadership position they may have in the future.

“I hope students coming out of the retreat will have a better understanding of both their own racial identity and of others,” she said. “Also through the process of discussion, they will come with a commitment to better understand and help others understand.”

Students interested in participating were interviewed and selected by the staff of the Counseling and Student Development Center.

“I decided to come because I wanted to learn from other cultures so I can grow as a person,” said Alex Fernandez, a freshman corporate communication major.

Participants, who left the NIU campus Friday afternoon and returned Sunday night, were given the opportunity to discuss stereotypes, to share personal experiences and to express hopes, fears and concerns.

“I was able to deal with stereotypes at the source,” junior nursing major Jennifer Else said. “I realize that a lot of people have the same problems and the same views.”

Counselors ran activities and participated with students.

“The students seemed very open to discussing the issues, and they were surprisingly honest with themselves,” said Brian Pillsbury, a counselor at the Counseling and Student Development Center. “I decided to participate because racism is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. As a counselor, there is a need to see the college students grow in the experience.”

Many participants said they enjoyed the experience.

“I learned a lot about myself and other cultures,” sophomore anthropology major Mike Kamin said. “I learned that we are equals and that we have the same problems. If people work really hard, we could overcome these problems.”

The program was funded by the provost office, the office of student affairs and president’s office.

“The program is a great idea,” Pillsbury said. “I wish we had the resources to do this with as many students on campus as possible.”