IWU Engages Diversity
The Engaging Diversity Program invites interested Caucasian students from the incoming
class to help them understand and meaningfully engage diversity while at Illinois
August 24, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. –The class of 2014 at Illinois Wesleyan University is one of the
largest classes in recent years for the University. The class, comprised of 620 students,
has 24 transfer students, 17 international students, 95 African-American, Latino-American,
Asian-American and Native-American (ALANA) students and 76 out-of-state students.
While it’s easy to divide the class into subgroups, the IWU Engaging Diversity Program
attempted to do just the opposite.
Associate Professor of Psychology Kira Hudson Banks and Assistant Professor of Sociology
Meghan Burke co-directed this program, which brought 14 randomly selected first-year
Caucasian students to campus three days early to participate in meetings and activities
Participants included Kelsey Brattin, Overland Park, Kan., Katelyn McDonald, Minooka,
Il., Sydney White, Lombard, Il., Kaitlin Dunn, Bloomington, Il., Alyssa Payleitner,
St. Charles, Il., Liz Liubicich, Glen Ellyn, Il., Ryan Winter, Wheaton, Il., Brad
May, Sugar Grove, Il., Christopher Grills, Joplin, Mo., Ben Mulgrew, Dubuque, Iowa,
Andrew Hoyle, New Berlin, Il., Christine Gawron, Chicago, Elaina Henderson, Lexington,
Ky. and Gracie Nafziger, Louisville, Ky.
“We wanted to give the students a safe space to come together and be able to ask tough
questions about diversity and how they as white students can play an active role in
the campus climate,” said Burke.
The students spent their weekend discussing the definitions and history of diversity,
affirmative action and college admissions, white privilege and racial identity and
open communication and dialogue. They also met with the ALANA students, international
students and IWU faculty and staff who supported their decision to participate in
“We focused a lot on racism but also talked about the intersectionality of our identity
affiliations,” said Banks. “Some of the students came in thinking we should all be
color blind and not see race. But then they were able to see how our society is constructed
around race, and they realized being color blind is not the answer. They realized
that seeing race is part of seeing who people are.”
The program ended Monday, Aug. 16 with a group session discussing ways to share the
program’s message with the IWU community. The participants plan to re-invigorate the
group white students interested in self-growth and eradicating racism (WISER), which
was created in 2005. The first WISER meeting will be Sept. 12 at 5 p.m. On a related
note, the University Council for Diversity will hold Turfler Talks in the Turfler
Room in the Memorial Center (104 E. University St., Bloomington). The talks are open
to the public and will begin Tuesday, Aug. 31 at noon.
Contact: Jessica Hinterlong ‘11, (309) 556-3181