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    Los Angeles, 1963

    I was born in Los Angeles, and in 1963 I experienced the greatest moment of my childhood when the Dodgers won the World Series in a four game sweep over the New York Yankees. The city was euphoric. Little did I know at the time that this joy was built on the pain of a once-vibrant Latinx community. Chavez Ravine would be the eventual site of Dodger Stadium. Through eminent domain and other coercive means, most of the ravine’s residents were dislocated for a housing project that eventually stalled. The land was later conveyed to the Dodgers in 1958. As a result, the authorities forcibly removed families from the homes built by their grandparents.

    We see life through our own lenses, and the only way to broaden our perspective is to explore the rich kaleidoscope of other cultures and worldviews. By doing so, we gain a context from which to better judge our own values and approaches to life.

    When my mom and dad first took me to Olvera Street, the birthplace of Los Angeles, it was then, as it is today, a tapestry of art, clothing, jewelry, food, music, and dance. My dad was born and raised in Ecuador, and it was fascinating to listen to him speak Spanish with the merchants as they exchanged greetings and laughter.

    Hispanic Heritage Month

    Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs September 15 through October 15, 2021, is a full exploration of Latinx culture including, of course, the small slice I experienced on Olvera Street. Yet, we can never allow celebration to obscure inconvenient truths. Spanish colonizers were obviously not the first people in California. Millennia before they arrived, over 100 Kizh (pronounced keech) villages dotted the LA basin. One of their largest villages, Yaanga, was located near Olvera Street. The story of Spanish migration into the region and throughout California, Mexico, and the Southwest has its own brutal tragedies, and before the Kizh, who occupied these lands? Who might the Kizh have displaced, and what might be their untold story? History, culture, and heritage are ultimately an amalgam of tears and joy, agony and elation. The gumbo always has some fishbones.

    The importance of heritage month celebrations is not to uncritically acclaim but to discover and reflect. To the degree that we can all learn from one another, we can make progress. We invite the Michigan Tech community to consider Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 as an opportunity to better understand others and ourselves. Consider joining the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion for the Parade of Nations, held on Saturday, September 18, beginning at 11:00 a.m.

    Diversity Council Reorganization Will Enhance DEIS Communication

    To strengthen Michigan Technological University’s communication on issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging (DEIS), the University’s Diversity Council has been given a new charge. Effective fall 2021, the Diversity Council will serve as a communication hub between the leaders of colleges/major administrative units and the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI). This charge was developed with the purpose of coordinating policies and issues that impact goals related to DEIS at Michigan Tech.

    In its revised role as an information exchange among colleges, major administrative units, and the VPDI, the Diversity Council will coordinate policies and address issues that impact DEIS-related goals. Along with the VPDI, the council will comprise one or two MTU faculty, staff, or administrators from each unit, who will be appointed by their dean/unit leader in consultation with the VPDI. The VPDI will convene the Diversity Council and lead its meetings. Diversity Council members will also have a formal communication line to their respective dean/unit head. Meetings will be held monthly throughout the academic year and once in the summer.

    In conjunction with this new focus for the Diversity Council, the President’s Council Task Force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has also established two new bodies on campus: the Student DEIS Commission and DEIS Alumni Advisory Board. These groups will give students and alumni a forum to express their ideas and concerns to the VPDI in partnership with both the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students and the Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement. Working together toward a shared goal, the groups will establish lines of communication dedicated to DEIS issues and ensure there is opportunity to consistently bring their unique perspectives forward to administration for leverage across the University.

    With these three groups, we look forward to building a communication network that not only heightens DEIS awareness, but fosters collaboration to help make Michigan Tech a more welcoming university for all.

    Why do we Celebrate Pride Month?

    Guest Blog by Erin Matas

    June is recognized as Pride Month—and with the increased visibility of the rainbow flag as a sign of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) pride, it’s hard to miss. But why do we celebrate Pride in June and what’s it all about? What is Stonewall?

    In 1969, The Stonewall Inn was a popular New York City gay bar. Regulars included trans women of color, gay men, queer homeless youth, lesbians, professionals, students, and folks in drag. It was an eclectic and exciting environment for drinking, dancing, and socializing. 

    Historically, gay bars and clubs have been treasured as safe spaces where folks feel acceptance and belonging, where being your true self is applauded and empowering. This nightlife culture was particularly important because, come daylight, many in the LGBTQ+ community lived in the closet. They couldn’t tell anyone about their true sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, then and now, coming out could mean losing employment, being rejected or disowned by family, losing custody of children, losing friends, and other innumerable varieties of loss.

    The Scene

    It’s 1969. Serving alcohol is illegal in disorderly businesses—and the presence of gay folks automatically categorizes your bar or club as disorderly. Although The Stonewall Inn is a private, mafia-owned club, which does offer a little bit of protection from police, raids of gay bars and clubs are common. A raid usually involves harassing, degrading, and arresting staff and patrons, removing cash and alcohol, and shutting the place down. Many arrested are those violating gender norms, including women who aren’t wearing at least three articles of “feminine” clothing and those dressed in drag. Female police officers take those dressed as women into the bathroom to verify their sex and arrest anyone whose clothing don’t match the sex listed on their ID.

    However, the police raid on The Stonewall Inn the night of June 28 is different. 

    Instead of cooperating with police as they raid the club, patrons refuse to show their IDs, refuse to be frisked, and fight back against police officers. The uprising spills into the streets and the public joins the clash. The Stonewall Rebellion lasts for five nights, growing in numbers and strength each night. Marches and demonstrations fill the streets of the Greenwich Village neighborhood.

    About the Author

    Erin Matas

    Interest Areas

    • Academic libraries as integral partners in university initiatives
    • Accessibility of library spaces, services, and resources
    • Student Success
    • Information Seeking Behavior
    • Study of Expertise

    50 Years Later

    While the movement for LGBTQ+ civil rights didn’t begin with Stonewall, the uprising energized the movement both in the United States and internationally. As more LGBTQ+ folks and their allies came out of the closet and into the streets, pride took on a meaning of its own. LGBTQ+ Pride has become something to celebrate—something visible and tangible. Pride Month is celebrated with parades, events, and flags, and honors the courage of those at The Stonewall Inn who asserted their humanity and fought for respect.

    Although gay marriage is now legal in the US and other supportive legislation is in place, many in our community still suffer from discrimination, exclusion, and violence because of who they are and who they love. New legislation attempting to bar transgender youth from playing sports and laws denying hormone support for trans youth are just a couple of examples of current challenges. Right here in Michigan, it remains legal for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals, and many schools and colleges lack LGBTQ+ anti-bullying policies.

    This is my 27th Pride. I know we’re not there yet, but I believe we will reach true LGBTQ+ equity when every individual has the ability to be their true self and feels belonging in a culture of genuine acceptance.

    To learn more about Stonewall, check out these 12 Books to Commemorate the Stonewall Riots. The Featured Reads book display on the first floor of the Van Pelt and Opie Library highlights selected books in celebration of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month. Check out the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s lending library for another offering of great titles, too!

    DEIS Alumni Advisory Board Announced

    Alumni house at Michigan Tech.
    The Alumni House at Michigan Tech.

    Michigan Technological University is proud to announce the launch of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging (DEIS) Alumni Advisory Board in fall 2021. A testament to the University’s continued commitment to enhancing and improving the sense of belonging for all at Michigan Tech, this initiative is the next step in giving our campus community the culturally-responsive resources to succeed.

    The DEIS Alumni Advisory Board will unite committed volunteers of varied backgrounds to support the learning environment at Michigan Tech. This group will assist with supporting the foundation of DEIS campus and alumni initiatives. Specifically, this board will:

    • Offer guidance and feedback to the Michigan Tech President and other University leadership regarding DEIS efforts
    • Use existing networks to cultivate and support diversity initiatives aimed at student body, faculty, and staff
    • Assist in identifying resources (programs, in-kind services and philanthropic) for MTU DEIS efforts
    • Serve as mentors/contacts for incoming, current students and recent graduates
    • Serve as MTU ambassadors and facilitate University branding that promotes DEIS in identified communities and networks
    • Establish, monitor, track and evaluate benchmarks by which to define success
    • Support an inclusive environment in all things Michigan Tech

    The DEIS Alumni Advisory Board will be facilitated and co-chaired by the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion and the Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Engagement. Members will consist of committed alumni and friends representing a broad spectrum of talent from various industries. The Board will meet bi-annually for a day and half meeting. We are in the process of identifying and sending out invitations to board members for the inaugural board. Send any questions to More updates to come.

    What is Juneteenth?

    The summer season in the US includes several holidays celebrated widely across the nation—Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. But do you observe Juneteenth? Have you heard of this day, short for June 19?

    Current American history textbooks proclaim Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the end of slavery. Truth be told, slavery remained relatively unaffected in many places, most prominently in Texas. It was status quo for slaves well beyond the Proclamation date—they carried on with their lives of bondage and subjugation oblivious to the fact they were legally free. It was nearly two and a half years later, on June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that the Civil War had ended, slavery was abolished, and enslaved people were now free.

    June 19 became known as Juneteenth. It is a holiday recognized by nearly all our country’s 50 states as a celebration and remembrance, a kind of Independence Day for African Americans. It is the oldest national celebration commemorating the end of slavery and honoring African American achievement and resilience, and goes further in promoting continuous self-improvement and respect for all cultures. Most commonly celebrated in Black communities, Juneteenth typically features prayer services, memorials, parades, and barbecues. Though attempts have been made, Juneteenth has yet to be recognized as a federal holiday—another reason why few celebrate Juneteenth or are even aware of its existence and legacy.

    Our country’s victory over an oppressive, divisive, and immoral system is worth celebrating.

    Collectively, we are exploring appropriate ways to reconcile the trauma inflicted on 4 million enslaved people and their descendants, in addition to the impact slavery has had and continues to have on our country. I empathize with the sentiment that a federal Juneteenth holiday would be valuable—in both recognizing a wrong and setting about making it right, and providing a healing moment for individuals, families, and the nation. Coming together as Americans to commemorate such a significant and triumphant day would be an opportunity to find strength and peace in each other. Like Memorial Day, Juneteenth could be a day of conscious focus that binds and connects us. Our country’s victory over an oppressive, divisive, and immoral system is worth celebrating.

    In the Gettysburg Address, Lincoln referred to sacrifices made on the battlefield as a “new birth of freedom.” Each generation must renew our Founding Fathers’ pledge to do the hard work of forming “a more perfect Union.” In solidarity, we must remember the past to avoid repeating its mistakes. We must continue to work toward a society where all are appreciated, loved, respected, and included. Let us use this day to fuel our fight for liberty and justice for all. We are one in humanity.

    Student DEIS Commission to be Launched

    Michigan Technological University is committed to enhancing and improving the sense of belonging for all students, and a newly created commission of students aims to reinforce these efforts. With facilitation from the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion (VPDI) and the Dean of Students (DOS), the Student Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Sense of Belonging (DEIS) Commission is set to launch at the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. This initiative will provide an open space for student leaders to engage with and address ongoing issues pertaining to the campus climate and the needs of diverse communities on campus. Specifically, the Student DEIS Commission will provide the opportunity and space for students to:

    • Advance and elevate student DEIS concerns and initiatives
    • Facilitate open discussion and champion progress toward an inclusive and welcoming campus environment for all members of the campus community
    • Engage with University leadership to voice priorities and the pulse of the student body related to DEIS matters
    • Collaborate with other campus organizations, offices, and students, faculty, and staff to further a sense of belonging among all people at Michigan Tech.

    The Student DEIS Commission will provide additional opportunities and compensation for students to take on leadership roles within the commission. Working together with the VPDI and DOS, this commission will meet 2-3 times per semester and will address matters concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion, identify and advocate for marginalized individuals, and provide guidance so that meaningful action can be taken.

    Telemental Health in Support of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

    Beginning in the fall 2021 semester, the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being (CSMHW) will begin offering telemental health services through Morneau Shepell, a well-respected leader among providers of mental health services to college students. Morneau Shepell’s MySSP (Student Support Program) will help Michigan Tech meet the needs of all students and address significant issues that have prevented students from obtaining these services in the past.

    The need for additional options for mental health services has long been documented at Michigan Tech, both anecdotally and through instruments such as the 2017-18 Climate Survey. In reporting the climate survey results, the Diversity Council recognized the importance of providing accommodations and services to students. The climate survey reports—and anecdotal evidence supports—that our underrepresented minority students lack a sense of belonging and are frustrated with the lack of diversity at Michigan Tech.

    Despite our best efforts, this lack of diversity also appears among clinical staff in the Center for Student Mental Health and Well-being. According to Morneau Shepell, research reported by the World Health Organization and in the Journal of American College Health shows that race, gender, orientation, and lack of diversity among clinicians are all barriers to seeking mental health support. Meeting with a therapist who shares their identity will help students break through these barriers.

    Morneau Shepell’s MySSP works to pair students with clinicians who have self-identified as having experiences or specializations associated with gender, religion, ethnicity, geography, age, and more. MySSP also offers services in many languages—students have access to English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and can schedule appointments in 150 other languages. In addition, the MySSP Care Access Center offers accessible services for students with hearing impairments.

    MySSP works to pair students with clinicians who have self-identified as having experiences or specializations associated with gender, religion, ethnicity, geography, age, and more.

    Finally, one of the greatest benefits of MySSP: Students have uninterrupted access to crisis assistance and can schedule appointments at any time—day or night. Students can choose phone, video, or in-person services to meet their time demands, regardless of their physical location. Co-op? Study abroad? No problem. Where on-campus appointments might be limited on a given day, MySSP appointments are always available to Michigan Tech students. This is an excellent complement to our existing services and an important resource for students.

    Students have uninterrupted access to crisis assistance and can schedule appointments at any time—day or night.

    Morneau Shepell’s MySSP will help Michigan Tech meet the needs of all Huskies and help them feel a greater sense of belonging.

    Leaning Into Discomfort: How to Dialogue Through Difference

    by Wayne Gersie, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Talking about certain social issues is something many find intimidating. These topics are touchy. They invite strong opinions and can involve debate and contention. Often individuals feel they don’t know enough to weigh in or worry they won’t articulate themselves clearly. But most often, what holds us back is simply fear of saying something wrong.

    To move forward in a quest for equity and justice for all, we cannot avoid discussions around race, sexual orientation, class and the like. Fears over unintended offense and acceptable terminology should not prevent us from having these tough conversations. It’s better to stumble through these interactions than to not have them at all. Fear of saying the wrong thing, whatever the motive, is a roadblock to progress. Some things are difficult to say and hear, but they need to be said and heard for that very reason. The only way to confront issues such as sexism, racism, and ableism is to talk more openly about them.

    Racism and all forms of bigotry are binary. You believe all groups are equal or you do not. There is no in-between. But just because there is no middle ground does not mean we cannot find common ground in such conversations. If we want a more equal and respectful society, all of us need to get over our avoidance of hard conversations. Equally as important, is how we respond to others when we are engaged in these discussions. Check the judgment, condescension, and shame when talking with one who may have contrary views. Avoid becoming defensive. Listen with the intention of learning and speak with the intention to build understanding. “

    “Just because there is no middle ground does not mean we cannot find common ground.”

    We will misspeak. We will make mistakes. We should expect to be corrected. It is not always going to be comfortable or easy. But getting it wrong is how we learn to get it right. Silence is complicity. If we truly care about social justice, we must ignore our discomfort. Fear does not justify inaction. We can’t be so afraid of making a mistake or being criticized that we don’t even try to do what is right. We are all poorer for the conversations that never happen.

    Meet Wayne Gersie,Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Hi everyone, my name is Wayne Gersie. I’m the new Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion here at Michigan Tech University. I’m excited to be a part of your community, and I’m looking forward to having conversations with you about diversity, equity, inclusion and sense of belonging. Since I have been here, I have had the opportunity to move around and interact with many of you and get a really great sense of what it’s like to be a member of this community. Your stories have made me better understand what it means to live and work at Michigan Tech. You shared what you love about the community—but also some of the challenges you’ve experienced in your time here. I know we have work to do.

    While I certainly acknowledge that we’ve had some challenges this past semester, I’m encouraged by the conversations I have had with many of you in the short time I’ve been here. One of the first initiatives my office is focusing on is a 120-day action plan developed by the newly formed President’s Council Task Force for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I’ve heard many of you ask for action. I hear you. And this Task Force and its 120-day plan are a great first step.

    With the support of President Koubek and the President’s Council, we will identify and develop solutions that can provide an immediate benefit to both the community’s employees and its students. Speaking broadly, this team will develop a constructive dialogue from which actionable items will be drawn. It will be hard work, but I’m confident that we’ll be able to do it.

    Our website,, will serve as a hub for information about our office and our initiatives. It will also serve as a place where you can see the notes, progress and goals the Task Force develops throughout these critical next couple of months.

    In the meantime, if you have questions, suggestions, or just want to talk, please reach out to our office.

    Thank you for helping create a Michigan Tech where everyone feels welcome. Together, we are better.

    Diversity—Why You Should Care

    by Wayne Gersie, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion

    Diversity comes in many forms: race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, ability, age, and socioeconomic background, to name a few. All of these characteristics contribute to one’s own experience and understanding of the world. How has diversity impacted your own life? For example, how diverse is your neighborhood? School? Place of work? Group of friends? And if our lives tend to lack diversity, why should we care?

    There are some compelling reasons to seek out diversity across all aspects of our lives. If you experience diversity in your everyday life, you will have regular exposure to people, cultures, traditions, and practices that are unlike your own. Such exposure enriches our lives, stimulates and inspires us, and deepens our understanding of the benefit of differences. Not only will you augment your social development, but you will also increase your understanding of the world and enhance your ability to communicate. You will interact with communities and concepts with which you are unfamiliar and gain an enriched understanding of life. Becoming a global citizen who has a broad understanding of the wider world will be of benefit, whether you are traveling to a new country, working with diverse co-workers, or just reading about events in the news.

    “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

    – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Diversity undoubtedly deepens and broadens your perspectives. Bringing together people from various backgrounds can help generate new ideas, transform vantage points, and catalyze methods for problem-solving that you may have never considered before. Quite simply, diversity fosters innovation.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, increasing diversity is the path to not just tolerance of differences but true acceptance and appreciation of them. Through contact, communication, and increased familiarity with people of many different backgrounds, we can diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination. Strive for more diversity in your life. It will make a difference. When we listen and learn from others—and celebrate both what we have in common and where we differ—inclusion, belonging, and justice follows.