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The 10th annual PolyCultural Weekend will take place April 10-12 this year with an anticipated attendance of 300 conditionally accepted high school seniors and transfer students, according to Que Dang, the MultiCultural Center’s (MCC) assistant coordinator.
An opportunity for underrepresented students to get familiar with campus, PolyCultural Weekend began as a “grassroots,” club-based initiative, Dang said. A couple of students adopted the idea from other campuses that had similar programs, and over the years transformed it from a strictly volunteer-based program to being institutionalized through the MCC.
However, PolyCultural Weekend is still mainly based on volunteers, according to Dang. The weekend is spearheaded by a group of four coordinators who spend an entire year planning for the event, which amounts to over 1,000 hours of unpaid work.
In addition to the PolyCultural coordinators and committee members contributing to the weekend’s success, students on campus can get involved by choosing to host prospective students or volunteer for the weekend’s events, both of which are rewarding experiences, according to PolyCultural Weekend coordinator and business graduate Jessica Ryugo.
Ryugo, who was hosted as a high school senior in 2010, has been consistently involved with the program throughout her college career. Now in the MBA program, she helps direct the “biggest diversity driven recruitment initiative” on campus.
Recruiting for PolyCultural Weekend is no easy task.
The process begins with a phone-a-thon, a procedure that involves the coordinators acquiring phone numbers from the admissions office of multicultural students, Ryugo said.
“(PolyCultural Weekend) is typically based on ethnicity, so we try to get more underrepresented students to boost up our diversity numbers,” she said.
Students can also be contacted through other mediums such as their Cal Poly email or text blasts. However, if a student is not specifically contacted, they are still welcome to attend the weekend’s festivities.
“If people hear about it and want to come, they are welcome,” she said. “It’s not exclusive.”
To eliminate exclusivity, new initiatives are being put into place this year, Dang said. Potential incoming students now have the option to choose whether they want to be housed or partnered with an identified LGBT student.
“This is the first year that we are actively recruiting and being inclusive of LGBT students,” Dang said. “The Pride Center is now a partner club within the weekend.”
PolyCultural Weekend is working to appeal to a wider audience by also introducing two new panels: one for first-generation parents and another hosted by ASI Student Government to encourage diverse students to apply for positions on staff.
Further events target students of all ethnicities to make them feel welcomed and comfortable, Ryugo said.
A well-known event is the club showcase, where students can tour other clubs’ booths to meet members. This format allows those who are being hosted to make connections with other clubs.
Hosts remain unbiased throughout the weekend to give the students a chance to experience all cultures at Cal Poly.
“Even though I am associated with the Chinese Student Association, I would never not share anything about other clubs,” Ryugo said. “It’s always positive; you never want to bash any clubs.”
Animal science freshman Sergio Dimas attended PolyCultural Weekend last year as a high school senior and said the weekend presented numerous opportunities to meet other people from different backgrounds.
“If your host wasn’t with you, it wasn’t like you were lost,” he said. “It was a good chance to make new friends.”
The weekend, however, isn’t solely targeted on incoming students having a memorable experience. Those who choose to host or volunteer that weekend walk away with a different outlook, mechanical engineering sophomore Ali Harake said.
“(Being a host) expanded my perspective on everyone,” he said. “I got to experience SLO differently. Usually I’m just with my friends, but being a teacher to someone and showing them the best things to do around SLO really improves your morale.”
Current Cal Poly student involvement contributes to the PolyCultural Weekend alumni, Dang said. The connections future students make with their hosts and others on campus help eliminate culture shock when they accept their admission.
“They have already made connections with students, and they utilize those connections,” she said. “They already have a sense of belonging to a group of people they shared 48 hours with.”