Since it was established in 1967, Whatcom Community College’s founder Harold G. Heiner had the purpose of internationalizing the school.
Heiner believed that by bringing in students from different countries and cultures, the college could achieve greater institutional diversity. Today, the International Programs staff works to preserve this legacy. Continue reading International Programs celebrates diversity→
Students at Whatcom Community College were able to show their roots this past week as the Programming and Diversity Board (PDB) put on their Make Your Mark event. Students were invited to come to Syre Student Center May 15 and mark where they are from on a world map.
The idea behind the event was to visually represent the diversity of Whatcom’s student body in a way that students could see how far our peers have come to attend the college.
“We wanted to encourage diversity on campus, and have people take it wholeheartedly,” said Whatcom student and PDB member Marcelina Santana.
The event initially began with students placing one pin on the map, but students started asking if they could place more than one pin because they identify themselves as being from more than one place.
Some people started to put pins not only where they grew up, but also where their family ancestries were from. Santana said it was an unforeseen turn of events for PDB members and was also an eye-opening experience for some.
“If you consider yourself something, then that is who you are,” said Whatcom student Vicky Matey, who is also on the PDB. Matey said that placing multiple pins on the map allowed students to “self-identify” where they consider themselves from, whether through direct geological location or indirect family lineage.
Student ethnicity has become a popular topic in Bellingham, partially because of the controversial statements recently made by Western Washington University’s President Bruce Shepard that Western’s student body is “too white.”
Students who attended the event to mark where they came from on the map did not seem to see a lack of diversity on their campus, and with more than 200 international students at the college, it is easy to see this diversity represented in the student body.
“Whatcom is bigger than you think,” said Whatcom student and PDB member Marques Reynolds. “Not in the number of people, but more in [their] diversity. It shocks students to see how widely spread the Whatcom community really is.”
Other students shared similar notions about diversity at Whatcom and the Make Your Mark map gave a visual representation of the diversity on campus, especially in regards to self-identity.
“It gives people the opportunity to see how diverse Whatcom is, and lets people know that they’re not alone,” Whatcom student Celiann George said at the event. “Instead of peoples’ assumptions, you can choose for yourself.”
Whatcom student Sukhdip Singh was one of many individuals that placed multiple pins on the map. Singh said he was raised in Greece and has family ties back to India.
“We can see that Bellingham is diverse,” said Singh. “This is bringing students together and making them aware of the different people and different cultures on campus.”
“We were trying to portray diversity on campus, and show that [Whatcom] is open to all kinds of people. We have people from all over the world and they all connect back to Bellingham,” said Whatcom student and PDB member Nilly Wasef.
The coordinators in charge of the event said they were pleased to see the results produced on the map, as well as the underlying message that Whatcom’s student body is rich in diversity.
“It was such a positive event, and made me happy to be at Whatcom,” Matey said. “We are all one. We’re all different, but we’re all one.”
Dozens of Whatcom Community College students recently attended the 24th annual Students of Color Conference in Yakima.
Led by a nine advisers, including two peer advisors, 38 Whatcom students attended the conference held from April 17-20 .
The conference, hosted each year by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, was attended by many community and technical colleges including Whatcom and Bellingham Technical College.
This year’s official agenda for the conference said that it aimed to help students become more aware of their own and others’ racial, ethnic and cultural identities and increase “diversity awareness and cultural sensitivity” while providing a safe platform for students to do so. Students took part in a variety workshops and facilitated discussions, and keynote speakers and other presentations were given.
The three-day conference started out with two identity development workshops. Dong Dinh, a 21-year-old Whatcom student who attended the conference for the first time this year, said that in these workshops students met with groups that they identified most with in an effort to build community within the conference.
“You get to be in a place where students of color, people who look like me get to be in this position
said. “We can all be ourselves around each other. That was pretty powerful.”
Jaswant Patara, a sophomore at Whatcom who also attended the conference, said that the identification workshops were helpful because she could relate to other students in her group. “I kind of [got] to know them well and I understand their situation. I knew that I had the same issues,” she said.
According to the event’s agenda, the rest of the conference focused on increasing students’ knowledge and understanding in relation to race and ethnicity, developing skills to be used in achieving their full potential and increasing students’ understanding of the importance of social change.
“The workshop I liked the most was the ‘Chip on your Shoulder Workshop,’” which focused on dealing with being racially misidentified, Patara said, adding that the workshop helped her understand that misidentification should not be offensive. “It’s not bad because those people from that culture are nice,” she said.
Reid Kerr, an English teacher at Whatcom who also attended the conference, said it was important that the conference provided students with an open and inviting environment in which they can freely discuss issues they struggle with at their respective colleges.
“As far as students go, I think it’s important to just have the opportunity to talk about some of this stuff, things that don’t get talked about or things that don’t get voiced at all,” he said. “It was a very emotional thing but in a very valuable way.”
Kerr said that some of these issues may not be voiced by students outside of the conference because they feel uncomfortable bringing attention to themselves or may have a hard time getting the courage to do so.
“It’s making waves. Or fear of saying ‘I feel underrepresented’ or ‘marginalized’ or ‘intimidated’ on campus,” Kerr said. “It’s hard to say that and it’s hard to recognize that it’s felt.”
“I really appreciate hearing from international students,” Kerr said. “A couple of [international students] communicated to me the isolation that happens on campus where they want to have friends that are outside the international kids and just how hard it is to connect with people in a deeper way,” he said.
Kerr added that some of this isolation comes from a disconnection between students.
“In class is just like ‘hey how are you what did you do for the homework,’” Kerr said, “but we need to get beyond to that deeper level. Maybe everyone needs to do that.”
One of the most important things that one could take from the event was the need to keep the conversation going outside of the conference, Kerr said.
“I think it’s all well and good to go to these things and talk about them, but how are you going to make a
difference on our campus? In our classrooms? Keep these conversations going,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of them. It’s not easy work but it’s important and beneficial.”
With 38 students in attendance this year, it was Whatcom’s biggest showing at the Students of Color Conference said Betsey Hasegawa, interim director of Multicultural Academic Support Services at Whatcom.
The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington