Protector of campus values: Multicultural Education


Fernando Jimenez

Hispanos Unidos de Guilford Vice President Isabel Gutierrez and HUG President Jessica Canar decorate signs expressing their culture at a club craft night sponsored by the Multicultural Education Department.

Every day, students pass the core value flags that line the brick walkway to Founders Hall.  While the terms the flags carry may appear abstract to some, the Multicultural Education Department is here to weave these values into the community. Nestled within the Academic Affairs wing in King Hall, this department stands as a guardian of social equality and justice here on campus.

MED’s mission is to support the educational, spiritual, cultural, physical and emotional development of students of color and LGBTQIA students in order to promote their retention and graduation, according to their page on the Guilford website.

To experience this organization first hand, I attended a meeting of Hispanos Unidos de Guilford on Sept. 17, 2015.

The meeting room was filled with delicious snacks, art supplies for painting flags of home and people of many ethnicities laughing and enjoying each other’s company. The sight of this joy and excitement was utterly intoxicating.

“As a first-year, I really wanted to find my niche, and I found it here,” said sophomore Jessica Canar, HUG president. “It also gave me a chance as a sophomore to help freshmen who were in my position coming into college.”

HUG is only one of the many programs and groups sponsored by MED that brings together and supports the diverse school community. They also host student clubs like Blacks Unifying Society and Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual, and Queer.

“Overall, it’s neat to network with different people on campus, and you get to know a different group,” said first-year Elias Smolcic Larson, a member of HUG.

In terms of the department, many members of the student body already see its power in reference to social justice on campus.

“(MED) is very diverse,” said first-year Hector Rivera Suarez. “You get to learn a lot more about people who you wouldn’t consider multicultural. I love meeting people that are involved in the same kind of activities that I’m doing.”

Suarez took part in the Soy un Lider Conference last year, hosted by MED. The conference focused on both the preparation and encouragement of Latino students and parents hoping to apply to college.

“I actually ended up at Guilford because of that conference; it was quite an experience,” said Suarez.

International students such as Suarez are continuing to seek out higher education in the United States. The 2014 Open Doors Report from the Institute of International Education suggested that the number of international students enrolled in American universities has increased by 8 percent in the 2013 – 2014 academic year.

While the goals of MED are as lofty as the values on our flags, some have found it hard to live up to these ideals.

“In order for us to really live the values of this college institution, it would mean essentially a complete overhaul of everything between policies, practices and curriculum, and that’s hard to do,” said LGBTQQA Coordinator Parker Hurley. “The hardest part of our job is that nobody wants to be told that they’re doing their job wrong.”

Since the MED is composed of only two staff members, Hurley and Multicultural Education/Latino Community Coordinator Irving Zavaleta Jimenez ‘08, most of the department’s clubs and organizations are led by students.

“Students are coming to us for the first time, grappling what it means to have certain powers and privileges, and getting to a place of feeling empowered to identify these things,” said Hurley. “So by the time people see themselves as agents of change, they’re already gone.”

Nonetheless, MED remains empowered and ready to stand up against social injustices in the community.

“The MED is the most welcoming place I’ve been in the entire campus,” said first-year Brianna Randolph, a student ambassador for the department. “People here care.”

The department will soon be helping to sponsor the Human Flotsam: Perspectives on the Current Refugee Crisis panel on Sept. 29, 2015, in the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Auditorium. The event starts at 6:00 p.m..

Just like the flags of this college’s core values, MED stands poised to engage and serve the community.

“Multicultural education is where real education happens,” said Hurley.