The Office of Student Life and Development at Whatcom Community College held the third annual half-day conference on Oct. 11, known as Catch the Next Wave in the Syre Student Center.
“This conference is all about the many leadership and engagement activities at Whatcom,” said Mario Alem, president of the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College. CTNW featured student-led breakout sessions and a keynote speaker.
The keynote speaker, Luis Ortega, is the director and founder of Storytellers for Change, an organization that uses the power of storytelling in communities to create a positive social change. Storytellers for Change creates, shares, and listens to stories that inspire people, and uses them to create a place of belonging.
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 → Follow us:
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.”
A student-run conference promoting social justice, diversity, and student leadership is set to be held at Whatcom Community College Saturday June 7.
The conference, called “Seeds of Change,” is presented by Whatcom’s Social Justice, Equity, and Pluralism Committee, who are members of the Associated Students of Whatcom Community College (ASWCC). The conference is set to be held in Syre from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m
“Students are provided the opportunity to be presenters at this conference when normally they are just students learning at the conference,” said Lead Conference Coordinator Alan Alatorre.
At the conference students and community members will be able “to learn, grow, and engage in conversations around social justice, with the hopes of creating change,” according to the conference flyer.
Alatorre said that the committee has been working on organizing the conference since the last week of winter quarter. He added that they are most excited about the conference being completely student-led and student-ran. This is the first time the conference has been done, and it is intended to be held annually in the future.
“A few students went to the Students of Color Conference in Yakima, Washington and want to bring back what they learned there and implement it at Whatcom,” said Samantha Williams of Whatcom’s Multicultural Academic Support Center (MASC). Williams will be one of four keynote speakers at the upcoming conference.
The Students of Color Conference is one of several conferences that Whatcom students have attended throughout the year, Alatorre said. At the conference, students explored and discussed topics surrounding social justice, diversity, and student leadership among other things.
Alatorre said the conference will begin with a Native American blessing followed by two keynote speakers from Whatcom’s MASC, Samantha Williams and Donna Thorn. Both Williams and Thorn are former Whatcom students.
He added that the conference will also include two keynote speakers from Western Washington University’s Ethnic Student Center, Teena Thach and Polly Woodbury. Both are first-generation students, meaning they are the first in their families to attend college.
“The conference will include a variety of student-led workshops,” Alatorre said.
Students, faculty and community members were invited to submit workshop proposals for the event, he added. Some workshop topics will include mentorship within the Latino community, mentorship with underrepresented students in the community, and issues of micro-aggressions and racist comments on campus, said Interim Director for Multicultural Academic Services Betsy Hasegawa.
Alatorre said the conference will be split into two sessions with lunch in between. Lunch will be provided for free to Whatcom students, and Tacos La Guelaguetza, a local taco truck owned by a Whatcom student’s family will also be selling menu items ranging from $3 to $8, he said.
The conference is open to all students and community members. Alatorre said that early registration is highly recommended but not required and can be done online until June 3. Registration can be done at the conference after June 3.
The official student newspaper of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Washington