“Just because I am quiet doesn’t mean I am invisible. I fought hard to be here.”
“I am American. I am Muslim. I am Lebanese/Syrian. I am Munir.”
“I am Saisa. I am unique. I do not fit into a category or box. I am me!”
These were some personal statements made by Cal Poly students as part of the MultiCultural Center’s (MCC) #IAmCalPoly campaign, which kicks off April 17 to celebrate student diversity across campus.
The campaign will include a photo exhibit on the second floor of Robert E. Kennedy Library, displaying portraits of students of different ethnicities, areas of study, personality types and passions. Each portrait, captured by a student photographer, is complemented by its subject’s handwritten self-description.
Biomedical engineering senior Munir Eltal was one of several Muslim Student Association members invited by the MCC to participate in the campaign.
They, alongside members of other campus groups, answered a series of questions about their Cal Poly experience, such as whether they felt welcome on campus when they first arrived or if there was ever a time they felt they couldn’t be themselves.
“It was them trying to spark discussion among students from diverse backgrounds,” Eltal said.
At the end of the interview, Eltal and other participating students were given a whiteboard and asked to write whatever they identify themselves with. Students responded with their ethnicities, religious affiliations, sexual orientations and other characteristics.
“It really helps to see students coming in from different backgrounds, different religions, different races,” Eltal said. “It makes people aware that, hey, this may not be the norm and this may not be what you see every day, but these are the students here and this is what’s happening.”
The MCC intends for the campaign to provide a platform for students to share their personal statements and stories. The exhibit’s webpage describes it as giving “a visual and first-hand account of student perspectives on cultural identity and the importance of the campus coming together to embrace the evolving diversity on campus.”
UC Santa Barbara professor Kip Fulbeck inspired the campaign. He will accompany the student photo series with parts of his own traveling photo exhibit, a multiracial identity project called “Kip Fulbeck: Part Asian, 100% Hapa.”
The photo exhibit will be on display in the library from April 17 to June 5. Fulbeck will also host an opening reception and talk on May 8 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. on the library’s second-floor Cafe Lounge.