First Person

Petra Carlos Arzate '17

Petra Carlos Arzate '17
As a child, I never critically thought of what it meant to be working class, Catholic, Mexican and female. I was always aware of who I was but was never put in a position to defend my identity until middle school. There, I faced a new environment with a different set of norms and identifiers. In high school, I learned to value the people and experiences from which my volunteer work with minority communities took place. I became a leader and role model for younger students to follow. Race, religion, language, gender and culture have helped develop and strengthen my character and identity. It is my hope to serve as a resource for other students seeking to celebrate their identities and leadership abilities.

Alisha Agard

Samuel Carrillo '17
Growing up in San Diego, I was exposed to people of many different backgrounds and life experiences. Though ultimately beneficial, this exposure also included negative stereotypes and prejudices. We are all different; there is no such thing as more different, less different, better different or worse different. We must not let differences of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or any other social barrier, prohibit inclusion and respect among conscientious individuals. Instead, we must celebrate our differences and promote diversity. I am an agent of positive social change and will oppose bigotry and indifference in my community by advocating inclusion, respect and diversity.

Alisha Agard

Nadir Ovcina '17
As both a refugee and Muslim growing up in a post 9/11 world, acceptance of diversity is an ideal that I seek to fulfill in my everyday life. I've seen persecution firsthand. Though daunting, I believe open and honest dialogue is the first in combating intolerance. I hope to aid the Whitman community in ways that foster multicultural competencies and communications skills. Valuing diversity means honoring the different points of view that all of us possess.

Alisha Agard

Alisha Agard ’15
Before coming to Whitman in the fall of 2011, I had never thought about diversity or what it meant to me. I knew that there were different people in the world who came from different backgrounds, but it wasn’t until I took my first sociology class that I realized how being different can change a person’s life. Growing up, I went to school with people who looked like me and who came from similar backgrounds. At high school, I was exposed to different people with different stories, and I learned a lot from my interactions with those whose lives were different than mine. Diversity is about difference, but it is also about learning and living together in this society while respecting those differences.

Angela Tang

Angela Tang ’17
When I was young, I didn’t realize the importance of diversity. I disliked my Chinese cultural background and attempted to move away from it. But as I grew up, I became aware of how my diversity could make a positive impact on other communities and individuals. Now, I embrace myself as an LGBTQ-identified, first-generation Chinese student at Whitman College. I value the insight that I have gained from being part of these different cultures, and I plan to use it to enhance not only my own, but also others’, liberal arts education. With these identities as a part of me, I aim to be sensitive to issues regarding diversity and create positive change.

Ashley Hansack

Ashley Hansack ’15

Cultivating diversity begins with understanding and valuing differences. Whether the issues revolve around race, class, sexuality or other variables, differences help foster a greater sense of community, where people are comfortable in expressing their own views and opinions. Having the opportunity to pinpoint differences and use those differences to bring people together rather than draw them apart will lead us to a fruitful future filled with positive energy to produce change.

Gladys Gitau

Gladys Gitau ’16
Diversity is not a word that was used often as I was growing up. Coming into contact with many immigrants, women and people of color, I did not know that “diversity,” or lack thereof, was an issue in upper-class America. I was aware of systems of oppression around these minority groups, but it wasn't until I came to Whitman that I learned the language around this issue and realized the importance of empowerment within these groups. Stepping into a world where I did not often see my opinions and ideas represented, I’ve learned the importance of diversity to a flourishing, progressive environment.

Matt Ozuna

Matthew Lee Ozuna
Though my Whitman career began in August 2005, an awareness and appreciation for diversity developed much earlier. As a child, I learned to recognize the intersections of race, culture and class within my own family. I remember studying these intersections, coping with them, even celebrating them with distinct foods, languages and atmospheres. As a teenager, I began to critically analyze and question my mixed-race, multicultural identity. When I arrived at Whitman, I understood the importance and sensitivity surrounding issues of diversity. My values, insights and experiences helped prepare me for the wide array of people, places and ideas that would enhance my liberal arts education.

Nina Pascucci

Nina Pascucci ’14
I first began analyzing societal structures of race, class and culture in the public education system. While attending middle and high schools with high levels of diversity of race and class, institutionalized separations were still visible. Classes, clubs and social groups tended to divide along these lines, which made me question the nature of these structures and the impact they have on collective communities, individuals and ideas of identity. In college, I have continued to study the construction of race, class and ideas of difference. I have found that it affects the way I perceive my other areas of study and has significantly enriched my education.

Sayda Valentina Morales

Sayda Valentina Morales ’15
Growing up, I was always surrounded by people who looked like me, but once I entered a predominantly white high school, all that changed. It was then that I began to investigate my identity and notice the discrepancies between how I was treated compared to my white peers. Today, I am determined to educate those around me on the importance of cultural sensitivity and advocacy. I not only hope that everyone can celebrate one another’s differences in background and identity, but that we can also help to ensure that people are treated equally no matter what those differences are. This may sound impossible, but by just sitting down and discussing issues such as discrimination, color blindness or white privilege, we are so much closer to tackling them than if we just pretend they don’t exist.

Sean Mulloy

Sean Mulloy ’14
Diversity is the variety of opinions, identities, experiences, ideologies, and backgrounds that make each of us unique. An appreciation of diversity hinges upon cultivating a community that resists homogeneity and instead fosters an understanding, respect and celebration of difference. It is only realized through the acknowledgment of how power and privilege operate in the world. It cannot be captured by checking a box on a form, but it can be nurtured through challenging ourselves and each other to think differently about the world, by challenging our assumptions, and joining the struggle for social justice and equality.