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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Finding Community Welcome connects students to cultural groups, campus resources

Tyler Besh
Tyler Besh // The Daily Wildcat Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs group, FolkLorico, presents a traditional dance to the audiece at the Finding Community Welcome event on September 3, 2013.

The Finding Community Welcome event Tuesday assisted hundreds of students in discovering different cultural and resource groups on campus.

Groups from around campus gathered in the Student Union Memorial Center to celebrate diversity and welcome incoming students. The freshman fee included in tuition funded the free event for UA students.

“We wanted to allow students a place where they can find a community that they will fit into on campus,” said Dan Xayaphanh, the event’s organizer program director for Asian Pacific American Student Affairs. “This is our fourth annual Finding Community’s Event, and we are very pleased.”

With free food, raffles, performances and giveaways, the room filled up quickly with students. A sense of community emanated from the audience as students of all different races and ethnicities poured into the ballroom.

Kendal Washington White, interim dean of students, and Melissa Vito, vice president of student affairs both spoke on behalf of the UA administration.

Washington White emphasized the importance of student engagement beyond the classroom and spoke about the opportunities students have to become involved at the UA.

“I am so happy you all have not let the storm clouds keep you from being a part of this program,” Washington White said. “True Wildcats are not only involved in the classroom but are also involved and engaged on campus.”

Washington White also promoted her office hours, a time when students can bring their concerns to her.

Vito focused on encouraging students to become involved in student affairs and on creating a sense of community for the diverse student population.

“Diversity is a very important value for us,” Vito said. “Sexual orientation and veterans, alongside ethnicity, are all forms of diversity, and we really work to build a diverse campus community where everyone can find not just one place to find a community, but hopefully multiple places.”

The speeches were followed by a performance from a folklorico dance group, after which attendees swarmed into the SUMC Grand Ballroom for more festivities.

Colorful booths lined the Grand Ballroom with information about diversity groups both on- and off-campus. Katie Marascio, an environmental sciences junior and advocate for Planned Parenthood, said she hopes to get freshmen and the community involved with outreach.

“We are just an arm for Planned Parenthood of Arizona,” Marascio said. “We are hoping to get people more aware about sex education and [make sex education] acceptable in public school.”

UA-based organizations were also present at the event. Geneva Baruelo, a molecular and cellular biology senior, was managing the Theta Nu Xi sorority booth. The sorority focuses on scholarship service, leadership and recruiting multicultural members, according to Baruelo.

“We are tabling here today for recruitment,” Baruelo said. “We are the only multicultural sorority on campus. We are hoping to find women for our sorority who will uphold those values.”

Holden Sanders, a senior studying speech, language and hearing sciences, is an active member in Episcopal Campus Ministry. Finding a place that doesn’t discriminate is comforting, Sanders said, adding that freshman year can be very overwhelming.

“I was a transfer student as a junior,” Sanders said. “I think it’s important to have a group of people you see regularly. At the time, it was important for me to be part of the church. All the members are UA students, and I think it is nice to have people you can look to and speak with and not be judged.”

Hundreds of students circled the room, grabbing free dinner and speaking with members of different organizations. While freshmen were the target audience for the event, there was something for everyone looking to find their place at the UA.

“This is the most ethnically diverse class we have ever had,” Vito said. “Over 40 percent of our freshman class is ethnically diverse.”

-Follow Emily Bregger @ebregger_news

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