Roughly a month after its initial announcement, leaders of Castleton University’s CU/See Me initiative are looking forward to the spring after already facilitating a handful of successful events.
The initiative focuses on creating programming on the broad topic of diversity, specifically through the perspective of individuals on campus.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for all of us to learn from our international students, from our students of color, our veterans and non-traditional students,” said Charlotte Gerstein, Castleton University librarian and CU/See Me Committee member. “For us to build community by knowing each other better and to know a little bit more about their story.”
Organizers of the initiative include a host of deans, professors and staff including Charlotte Gerstein, Peter Kimmel, Amy Bremel, Victoria Angis, Cathy Kozlik and Sherrill Blodget.
The committee originally formed out of the realization that much of what we imagine when we think of diversity is just visual.
“The idea of CU/See Me was that we should look beyond the surface of people and appreciate that they may have a different identity than what we see on the surface,” said Peter Kimmel, dean of the College of Health and Sciences. “In lots of ways, you know, in terms of gender, their orientation, their politics, you know, all kinds of things.”
In one of the country’s whitest states, it’s no surprise that Castleton is often seen as lacking in diversity. One of CU/See Me’s goals is to show how that’s not necessarily true.
“For many years, maybe as long as I’ve been here, we frequently get the comment that Castleton is very white,” said Victoria Angis, associate dean of Students. “We realized that, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, that we should focus on what we do have … a lot of diversity that perhaps is unseen.”
The committee is planning an array of programs for the spring semester. Roughly nine separate events are planned as of now, four of which will be part of Soundings and two will span multiple days.
Kicking off the semester on Jan. 23 will be a convocation-like event currently called “2020 Vision: CU See Me,” which will include a variety of shows on the topic of diversity, such as music, dance, art and talks from students.
Planned for February is a weekly program called “Every Spartan has a Story.” Similar to “Every Woman has a Story,” the events will feature Spartans from all walks of life sharing their experiences.
A short film project is also being created by a group of students with help from media and communication professor Sam Davis-Boyd. The video will focus on diversity within the CU community through first-hand stories.
The group is looking for “different voices on campus, whether it’s students, faculty, or staff,” said Davis-Boyd. “People that want to share their story about their identity and how they’re a part of the community on campus.”
Filming will likely begin in the spring. Anyone who’s interested in being filmed for the project can reach out to Davis-Boyd.
The CU/See Me committee is working to not only create their own events, but to work with individuals and groups on campus who want to create programming on the topic as well.
“We’re looking at all the above,” said Amy Bremel, coordinator of Advocacy, Activism, and Non-Violence Education at CU. “We’re looking at the first-year seminar program, we had that diversity component added this fall … Soundings programs, then convocation right now. There’ve also been other ideas tossed out there, so we’re not limiting ourselves, that’s for sure.”
Organizers are eager to collaborate with anyone on campus who’s interested in helping. Like with the film project, anyone in the community is welcome and can contact Victoria Angis or Dean Peter Kimmel to learn more.