The “Learn By Doing” method of teaching sets Cal Poly apart from so many other schools. However, if students want to prepare for the real world, it is important to learn how to interact with a diverse array of people. In honor of this, Cal Poly and the city of San Luis Obispo will host “Celebrating Diversity,” a colloquium addressing the benefits of living and learning in a diverse society.
The event will feature a number of guest speakers, such as James A. Miller, George Washington University professor and Center for the Study of Public History and Culture director, and Paul Gardullo, Smithsonian Institutional National Museum of African History and Culture curator.
The colloquium will also include a tribute to local 98-year-old folk photographer Joe Schwartz whose work in capturing racial harmony has been recognized worldwide. It will reside in the Smithsonian National Museum of History and Culture in 2015.
Cal Poly graphic communications department chair Harvey Levenson will be co-moderator of the event. He also helped Cal Poly’s Inclusive Excellence council, who oversee diversity integration efforts of the university, during the developmental process of the event.
“I thought it would be a nice idea to create a partnership between Cal Poly and the City of San Luis Obispo and get the word out that we want to be an inviting community— that we are open to diversity and celebrate diversity,” Levenson said. “That is how we attract a diverse student population or diverse applicants when we have job openings.”
Levenson also said he wanted “Celebrating Diversity” to become an annual event and be the first of many events at Cal Poly and in San Luis Obispo that deal with the issues of diversity to follow.
“My hopes are that there will be other programs such as seminars, workshops, town meetings or discussion groups that are interested in the topic and want to explore and further the positive aspects of living, working and learning in a diverse community,” said Levenson.
Cal Poly Senior Advisor to the President for Outreach Cornel Morton, who will be part of a panel discussion along with other Cal Poly administration, students and guest speakers, said the event is free.
“We want to make sure there are no barriers related to a fee of admission that wouldn’t allow specific groups to come,” Morton said. “None of that should be a part of this. All messages communicated should say that this event is open and accessible.”
While obtaining a diverse audience is one goal of the colloquium, another is making sure people feel comfortable enough to share their personal ideas and opinions.
Mechanical engineering sophomore Andrey Oliveira said although he cannot attend the colloquium, it is important for Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo to hold events such as this.
“Cal Poly is a predominantly white campus, so this will provide a good cultural experience,” he said. “It’s a smart idea to have events like this because it gives a cultural experience to everyone.”
Oliveira said the people who are willing to go will ultimately find a good cultural mix that can carry over to succeeding more in a diverse atmosphere in a career after college.
Those present will have the opportunity to share with other attendees, as well as the guest speakers of the event during a reception in the lobby of the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center immediately following the closing remarks by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong and San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx.
“This is an event that offers up an opportunity for new and different ideas to be shared and for no restraint to be placed on the dialogue of the conversation,” Morton said. “Whether you’re liberal or conservative, straight or gay, black or white, you have an opportunity now to come to a place where your voice is as valid as the next person’s.”
If people can attend this event and walk away with more awareness regarding the virtues of diversity, then they have the ability to spread this message of equity, according to Morton.
“I hope that the people who attend can learn more not only about themselves and individuals different from themselves,” Morton said. “But they will go back to their lives and take with them ideas they can infuse into their local activity.”
“Celebrating Diversity” is a free event open to the public. It will take place in the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center tonight from 5 to 7:30 p.m.