shae ashamalla Credit: Shae Ashamalla | Mustang News

One month after Cal Poly hosted its Week of Welcome (WOW) orientation program for its incoming class, students reflect on the program’s Cross-Cultural Experience (CCE) option — one that students say is underadvertised yet impactful.

The CCE program, a branch of WOW, launched in 2018 to give a comfortable space to Cal Poly students from underrepresented groups, including various ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and economic backgrounds.

“If someone who is a cis-straight male-identifying man wants to do Cross-Cultural Experience (CCE), then they’re totally welcome to do it,” CCE WOW leader and political science junior Ariana Tirado said. “CCE is for anyone who wants to have the opportunity to learn more about social identity and have really meaningful conversations.”

Tirado became a CCE WOW leader for the first time this fall, after being a leader for Cal Poly’s general WOW program for two years.

“I think if I knew about CCE WOW at that time when I was coming into Cal Poly, I would opt into it,” Tirado said. “That’s why I do orientation — to have these conversations with people and have that safe space for people. I think the problem was it wasn’t marketed; a lot of people don’t know what it is.”

Tirado is not the only one that has experienced a lack of knowledge about CCE.

“I feel like there’s not a lot of explanation of what CCE is as an incoming freshman,” architecture junior and CCE WOW leader Diana Fierro Gonzalez said. “You need someone who’s been in the process to explain what it is.”

On the other hand, Fierro Gonzalez’s freshmen orientation group member, mathematics freshman Maya Seagraves, said she saw the options for the CCE WOW program and instantly knew she would choose it.

“My parents taught me the value of meeting and connecting with people that were different from you and how it’s a good thing to be a part of a diverse group — to have multiple perspectives,” Seagraves said. “Also, I identify as queer, and my roommate is Asian, so both of us wanted to do it because we were part of different marginalized groups and we’re living together.”

However, some aren’t as decisive as Seagraves, like Fierro Gonzalez during her first year at Cal Poly.

“I thought doing regular WOW was going to help me cause I was going to surround myself with people, basically with the majority of people in Cal Poly,” Fierro Gonzalez said. “But creating that foundation, like a stable foundation first, as I did in CCE, it helped me a lot more.”

Fierro Gonzalez said she suggests CCE for people scared of not fitting into Cal Poly, as it’s a predominantly white institution.

“I wish everyone would give it a chance,” Fierro Gonzalez  said. “No matter what. We want to grow.”

Fierro Gonzalez said she was so undecided between the choices, she participated in both the general and CCE WOW programs.

She said she was “on the fence” and started with regular WOW because the majority of her peers participated in the general WOW program. However, convinced by a lack of close-knit community and friends in the CCE program, Fierro Gonzalez switched programs halfway through the week.

“They said, ‘you should switch right now. C’mon, let’s do it,’” Fierro Gonzalez said. “And I switched right there. I was like, ‘let’s do it.’”

As a recent participant of the CCE WOW, Seagraves described a similar connection and community that Fierro Gonzalez’s friends were encouraging her to join.

“I identify as queer, so I met other people part of the LGBTQ community,” Seagraves said. “Even though a lot of us had very different backgrounds and identities, I feel like we connected really well because we all shared the similarity of being different from the norm.”

Reflecting on her time during the CCE program, Seagraves said she “would 100% recommend CCE to incoming students.”

Similarly to Seagraves, Tirado highlighted the community created in CCE.

“CCE is more than just you have to sit through an extra presentation,” Tirado said. “You’re having important, intentional conversations about identity. And it helps a lot of underrepresented identities within Cal Poly find their safe space in the community.”

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