Last Wednesday, students, staff, faculty and alumni celebrated achievements in diversity at the 8th Annual San Diego State Diversity Awards Celebration held at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.
The event celebrated SDSU’s diversity leaders who consistently advocate the advancement of people of all races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses, disabilities and sexual orientations.
Students were recognized for achieving academic success and overcoming adversity, while faculty, staff and alumni were recognized for the contributions to cultural understanding and justice in the SDSU and San Diego communities.
Before the awards ceremony, guests enjoyed a reception in the courtyard with complimentary food, drinks and live entertainment as they mingled with peers in SDSU’s diversity community. Fliers were available to guests who wished to sign the Diversity and Inclusion Pledge, which vows to continuously strive for cultural acceptance, education and justice while interacting with all individuals and communities.
Following the reception, the ceremony began with opening remarks by SDSU’s Dr. Aaron Bruce, chief diversity officer and emcee for the night and President Elliot Hirshman. Although the event acknowledged specific individuals, both Bruce and Hirshman praised the SDSU community for contributing to its achievements throughout the year.
Some of SDSU’s accomplishments include becoming a designated Hispanic-serving institution by the U.S. Department of Education, receiving a five-star rating as an LGBT-safe campus from Campus Pride’s LGBT-Friendly Campus Climate Index and an inspiring visit by the Dalai Lama. SDSU’s LGBT major and minor program and the Cultural Competency Certificate program have seen exceptional growth this year as well. As Hirshman remarked, these accomplishments were possible because of SDSU’s core values of human potential and working together.
After acknowledging the successful year, Bruce introduced the presenters of the evening, but first he briefly explained the awards’ significance.
“Our belief is that in order to really know someone, you need to know something about what’s inside of them and what they’re made out of,” Bruce said.
Associated Students President Cody Barbo and A.S. representative Channelle McNutt were first to present, awarding the Student Organization Award to the Asian Pacific Student Alliance. McNutt, who was officially sworn in as A.S. executive vice president before the awards celebration, also serves as the Diversity Commissioner.
“Being the diversity commissioner for the past few years has really been (integral) to my development as a leader,” McNutt said. “Now I feel like I can really advocate for all people.”
Following the Student Organization Award, the Staff, Faculty and Alumni Awards were given to Janet Rodgers, Anne Donadey and Frank Urtasun, respectively.
Special recognition was given to three graduating SDSU Presidential Scholars, Samantha Stauber, Iman Autman and Cassandra Arroyo, as they were the first awardees to speak about their awards. During their emotionally charged speeches, each student reflected on their time at SDSU and how its diverse community helped them overcome personal adversities. All three students have plans and opportunities awaiting them after they graduate.
Tanis Starck, Director of the Intercultural Relations and the Cross- Cultural Center, then talked about the Cultural Competency Certificate Program and introduced the final speaker, Adam Elhabashy, who spoke about his time as a student in the program.
“To be culturally incompetent actually hurts our interactions with others,” Starck said.
Starck also talked about how the program helps students learn to be more aware of their cultural views and how cultural competency develops skills to think more flexibly and open. Seventy-five students will graduate from the Cultural Competency Certificate Program’s third graduation on Friday, and the program will continue to run online for students to take this summer.
The awards celebration ended after closing remarks by Bruce, urging everyone in attendance to take the Diversity and Inclusion Pledge. To find out more about SDSU’s diversity programs or to sign the pledge, go to www.sdsu.edu/diversity.