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Diversity Banquet Provides Recognition, Reflection and a Reminder

Diversity Banquet Provides Recognition, Reflection and a Reminder

The 12th annual Diversity Banquet, hosted by the United Front Multicultural Center on May 3, provided equal doses of recognition, reflection and, from keynote speaker Theology and Religious Studies Professor Christopher Carter, a poignant reminder for all University of San Diego students among the graduating class of 2017.

Diversity Banquet 2017

The recognition came in the form of celebrating all graduating students present in the UC Forums and adorning them with custom-made UFMC stoles and by announcing recipients in six CLASS Award categories.

• Ariela Canizal and Chelsea McLin received the L. Reuben Mitchell Award for Campus-wide Impact, as presented by Sociology Professor Greg Prieto.

• Emma Doolittle and Marguerite Nguyen Lehman were named winners of the Dr. Evelyn Kirkley Award for Leadership, presented by Dr. Kirkley, a Theology and Religious Studies professor and director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program.

• Mei-Li Hey earned the Dr. Joseph Colombo Award for Academics, which was presented by Theology and Religious Studies Professor Dr. Maria Pilar Aquino.

• Geralyn Williams and Jane Henderson each received the Dr. Judy Rauner Award for Social Justice, which was presented by Ashley Barton, director of the Black Student Resource Center.

• Arianna Reisman and Keily Becerra-Sanchez were recipients of the Dr. Judith Liu Award for Service, which was presented by Sociology Professor Thomas Reifer.

• The United Front Multicultural Center Award for Inspiration went to Andrea Maria Reyes and Ivette Gil, who were introduced by UFMC Graduate Student Assistant Linh Nguyen. 

The program also included an eight-minute photo slideshow presentation during dinner, Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez spoke and offered a prayer and Founders Chapel Choir Director Annette Welsh and three student choir singers performed a beautiful cover version of a song by The Wailin’ Jennys, titled, “One Voice.” 

Reflecting on the Impact of Students 

Mayte Perez-Franco, director of the UFMC, spoke from the heart in her introduction of the evening. Earlier on the day of the Diversity Banquet, she had called her father to wish him a happy 78th birthday. One of seven children, her call provided her father an opportunity to reminisce about his life, his struggles and his accomplishments. “He revealed things I’ve heard over and over for years, but his optimism brought a smile to my face.”

That same optimism, from energetic student banquet hosts Mariha Akbar and Wendy Martinez to the clubs, organizations, programs and events held throughout the year that celebrate, educate and encourage active participation in dialogue and beyond, is what Perez-Franco has appreciated in the students present at the banquet.

“During these last four years and maybe a little more for some of you who are graduating, all of us at the center have had the opportunity to connect and work alongside you,” she said. “Just thinking about this makes me feel honored and humbled to be here with you today. I think about how much we learn from you. Everyone we honor tonight, you are why we do what we do. You’ve worked hard to make this campus a better place; a place where we strive to put into action the university's mission and values and work for a fairer, just and compassionate campus community. Many of you have extended this work beyond USD. It is that sense of passion and commitment that we honor here tonight and it makes me feel optimistic about our future.”

Major Accomplishment Can Guide You Forward 

Dr. Carter stated he was asked to encapsulate the USD experience as it relates to social justice and equity and how it can translate to post-graduate life. 

There were two ideas/themes, Carter said, that stuck with him as he prepared his talk: “First, as a person of color, or as a person from a low-income family, or as a woman, you’ve had to work harder than others to be at a school such as USD. Second, keeping up this level of engagement will be a difficult, albeit necessary, requirement for your success in post-graduation life.”

Addressing the first one, Carter praised graduating students who fit the aforementioned description, knowing they “had to work extremely hard to be in this space, in this moment. You’ve had to overcome the fear and anxiety of leaving your families and you’ve learned how to navigate a foreign space that despite obstacles in your path you were able to make it, you were able to succeed despite societal messages that told you otherwise.”

The college experience changes a person — for the better. There’s a true sense of accomplishment, a newfound perspective and newfound knowledge that arises. But there are new questions, too. “Now what?” “What do I do to get a job?”

Carter acknowledges this newest concern, that there’s not a guidebook for what comes next after graduation, but he also offers some advice. “I submit to you that if you look back on what you have accomplished at USD, if you calm your mind and think about who you have become over these past few years, you’ll begin to gain a sense of clarity as to what your next steps ought to be.”

That advice envelopes all the resources that a graduating student has when tackling the next move in their life. “In order to know who we are we must first look to our past, to our ancestors, those who poured themselves into us, those who worked to provide us with the opportunities they didn’t have. Their experiences, their love and their truth informs who we are.”

“And then,” Carter continued, “you can begin to look at the present and ask yourself what makes you feel most alive, what stirs your soul and moves you in a deep and profound way, what makes you feel as though you are flourishing?” 

In essence this is a process that seeks to answer a very powerful question — knowing who you are and who you are called to be. When you know this, you can go into the world and do the work that you are called to do.

“You will see your work as transformational, you’ll see your work as life-giving and you’ll see how your hard work allows you to make this world a better place for the present moment and for future generations.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Contact Information

Center for Inclusion and Diversity
Maher Hall 253
5998 Alcalá Park
San Diego, CA 92110

Phone: (619) 260-7455
Fax: (619) 849-8280
cid@sandiego.edu

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