Event welcomes multicultural students to campus

More than 500 first years and their families attended the two-day affair.

Freshman year can be a big adjustment on its own – with stressors provided by classes and newfound independence – but adapting to other cultures and lifestyles might make the transition that much more difficult.

To ease the change, the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence offers resources and assistance to students looking for guidance at the University.

An assortment of ethnically diverse students attended the MCAE kickoff last week at Coffman Union.

Jillian Rowan, the academic progress coordinator for MCAE and organizer of the event, said she was pleased with the event’s turnout, which spanned two days.

Rowan said she expected nearly half of the estimated 1,000 first-year multicultural students to attend the event.

The kickoff not only included speakers and interactive games but also a student panel available to answer questions. Inquiries ranged from student jobs to commuting to purchasing books.

Crystal Flint Hollman, an MCAE employee and University alumna, said she saw the event as a way for diverse students to bond and find their niches at the greater University.

“Students are able to establish community before the hustle and bustle of classes,” she said.

First-year student Leika Schmidt said she was surprised by the laid-back atmosphere of the event.

“It is the perfect environment to meet your best friends,” she said.

Hollman listed time management and taking advantage of available resources as common problems facing multicultural students.

She stressed the importance of “knowing where resources are and putting pride aside and asking for help.”

MCAE offers tutoring, free printing services and a community for students to interact and support one another through their transition into college.

Rowan said her biggest concern this year was that the kickoff fell on the same date as New Student Weekend, forcing students to choose between the two. She did, however, stress the two events weren’t trying to compete against one another.

The kickoff was funded by the Office for Equity and Diversity, said University provost Nancy Barcel.

Barcel spoke at the event about her Mexican upbringing and how it taught her to succeed as a multicultural student in the Midwest.

She also encouraged incoming students to commit to academic and social success.

“I not only want you to graduate,” Barcel said, “I want you to graduate at the highest level.”

She told the students it was up to them to use the opportunities available at the University and MCAE.

Derrick Biney, MCAE collaborator and former Daily employee, said the quality of the organization has improved over the years, though certain difficulties continue to affect its potential.

He said it can be hard for his cultural community to come together when the MCAE office is located farther off campus than those of other student groups.

“Is the ‘U’ making a statement that they don’t care about diversity?” he said.

Jesus Estrada-Perez, a linguistics senior and MCAE ambassador, said he was hesitant at first to get involved with the group, but now he’s glad he did.

“I’ve never seen this many students of color at one time and place at the University,” he said.