Seven members of student body selected to serve as Diversity Student Ambassadors

Participating in the Diversity Student Ambassador Program are (from left) Autumn James, Robert Mack, Eric Cotter, Imani Jones, Daniel Ortiz, Josiah Buchanan and David Benoit.

Seven members of the Western Carolina University student body have been chosen to serve as Diversity Student Ambassadors and will focus on peer education around diversity and inclusion by developing and assisting with programs directed at all communities on campus.

WCU’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs established the Diversity Student Ambassador Program to have students of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds advance the knowledge of diversity by applying theory to practice, said Ricardo Nazario Colón, the university’s chief diversity officer.

“This prepares students with the skills needed in a growing multicultural world and challenges them to identify the legacy they want to leave behind,” Nazario Colón said. “At WCU, we strive to cultivate student leaders who are focused on current diversity issues.

“We are excited to have a group of students for whom inclusive excellence is important. We look forward to their peer-to-peer work and the programs they will enact.”

The ambassadors (with their class and academic areas listed) are Daniel Ortiz, senior, criminal justice and sociology; David Benoit, sophomore, political science and international studies; Imani Jones, sophomore, communication sciences and disorders, and special education; Autumn James, freshman, film and television production; Eric Cotter, an international student from Ireland, parks and recreation management; Robert Mack, sophomore, international studies, political science and Japanese; and Josiah Buchanan, junior, international studies and political science.

Ortiz, the ambassadors’ president, said he is extremely excited to be part of the new program.

“We want to be your voice on campus and in the community in order to affect real change here at WCU,” he said, speaking directly to the university’s student body. “The Diversity Student Ambassadors want to show you that ‘whee’ care about the students here at WCU and the rich history of our university, but also understand that we need to continuously strive to move forward and handle those tough issues that need to be addressed.

“If you feel that there is something that needs to be addressed on campus or in the community, I want you to be able to come talk to us.”

Some of the projects being considered by the ambassadors include a multicultural competence conference and an event to celebrate Latin American and Caribbean culture. The group is currently accepting submissions for its “Beneath the Surface Stories” project, an all-inclusive event to allow members of the campus community to share unidentified accounts of discrimination. Submissions will be showcased at an exhibit to be on display Monday, April 9.

The ambassadors also recently volunteered to help with set-up for the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, and they also will be assisting with WCU’s International Festival on April 11.

Caroline Duffy, a graduate assistant in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Programs, established the Diversity Student Ambassador Program and is currently serving as its coordinator. Duffy said she hopes the program will give students a voice and create discussion on diversity-related issues in the WCU community and beyond.

WCU students interested in becoming Diversity Student Ambassadors are invited to apply for the program. Applications will be available in April. For more information, contact Duffy at carolineduffy@wcu.edu or 828-227-3251.