Multiracial Student Connection discusses issues

Lauren Sluss News Contributor

Dialogue, creative activities used to increase awareness

Working to provide a safe space to explore identities, the Multiracial Student Connection group at Oregon State University uses dialogue and creative activities in order to bring awareness to multiracial issues on campus.

“It’s an open space for students,” said group co-founder and CAPS licensed psychologist Stephanie Shippen. “It initially came from wanting to create a space for students who identify as multiracial and allow them to talk about shared experiences.”

Shippen, along with Coordinator for Integrative Learning for Diversity and Cultural Engagement Charlene Martinez, founded the group in order to support students identifying as multiracial.

“Before officially founding the group, we talked about wanting to support and expand services for students to be able to discuss in an environment where they could explore their identities,” Martinez said.

Multiracial Student Connection stemmed from Multiracial Beavers, a staff and faculty group formed in 2014. The four members—Shippen, Martinez, Health Educator Malinda Shell and Coordinator of Academic Engagement for Cultural Centers Kim McAloney—worked to build a community for multiracial students, faculty and staff.

“We started with monthly meetings to bring folks together and brainstorm what we could do to create networks and provide resources for people who identify as multiracial,” Shell said.

Shippen and Martinez used the ideas from Multiracial Beavers to co-found Multiracial Student Connection last spring term, and have continued to hold weekly meetings every Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. in the SEC 254.

“Our main intention is to build a sense of community and have a space where people could get together and talk about ways in which their experiences with their multiracial identities have been similar,” Shippen said.

Multiracial Student Connection welcomes all students, regardless of how they identify, to attend the weekly group meetings in order to discuss and explore their identities, according to Martinez.

“It’s a space for dialogue, storytelling and a place just to be. It’s not a space in which we are asking students to be any one thing or another,” Martinez said. “We’ve seen it build community among a group of people who might have previously felt isolated.”

Along with dialogue and discussion, Multiracial Student Connection works to incorporate creative activities into their meetings as well.

“We asked students to answer the question ‘Who am I’, and allowed them to respond in whatever way they wanted, even outside of racial identity,” Shippen said. “Multiracial people are often asked this question, and are often expected to answer based on race or ethnicity. With this activity, however, people answered with being a cat lover, a chemist or however that person identifies not just with their race.”

The group’s creative activities and discussion work together to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment throughout the entire OSU community, according to Martinez.

“As we continue to talk about how we make OSU an inclusive and welcoming environment, we really need to think about how we do that for different populations that are not as visible,” Martinez said. “Multiracial issues and people often go invisible. It’s an opportunity for us to align better with our goals for inclusion.”

Just bringing attention to issues of multiracial communities allows students to explore their identities and work towards campus inclusivity, according to Shippen.

“None of us really neatly fit neatly into any particular box,” Shippen said. “We all have intersecting identities beyond race and ethnicity, such as gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or ability. In some ways, just by bringing awareness around multiracial identity helps to deconstruct racism or injustice.”

Along with Multiracial Student Connection, other resources for students who identify as multiracial include the social justice retreats, Women of Color Support Group and Bites at the Pride Center.

“It’s a really special space and opportunity for students to feel whole in all of who they are,” Martinez said. “That’s very powerful.”

More information regarding Multiracial Student Connection can be found the Multiracial Beavers Facebook page.

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