DamDiverse showcases student voices

Jada Krening, News Reporter

DamDiverse, a blog run by three Oregon State University students, was recently invited to share their work at the Roseland Theater in Portland as part of a show called “Reflect,” presented by the independent art organization, Raw, and they are hoping to continue to expand their influence.

Originally established in November 2017, DamDiverse strives to bridge gaps between communities by providing a platform for students to share their unique, diverse stories. Their goal is to stimulate conversation, embrace diversity, and unite as one through the sharing of students’ personal experiences. Since its start, DamDiverse has featured the stories of around 60 OSU students, and has gained 1,748 followers on Instagram.

Students write their own story and participate in a photoshoot with Alsaif or Ebrahimi before being featured on the DamDiverse page. Students are directly quoted in posts, rather than being edited or paraphrased.

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Gursharan Kaur, founder of DamDiverse and fifth-year studying business administration, was born and raised in England and moved to Salem, Ore. seven years ago. She created DamDiverse after working in Diversity and Cultural Engagement and recognizing the divide between communities on campus. Kaur chose to create an Instagram blog because it is easily accessible to everyone. 

After developing the initial idea, Kaur contacted two friends, Mohamed Alsaif and Ali Ebrahimi, who are photographers. Alsaif is a third-year studying industrial engineering, and was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. He decided to attend OSU for its college town feel and renowned engineering program. 

Ebrahimi, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student, also chose OSU for the engineering program, smaller college-town feel and the nature of the Pacific Northwest. Ebrahimi was born in Shiraz, Iran and grew up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Like Kaur, Ebrahimi noticed the gaps between groups on campus when he first arrived in Oregon, and said this encouraged him to pursue DamDiverse with a passion. 

After arriving in Oregon, Alsaif said he mostly surrounded himself with his own kin in order to feel comfortable in new surroundings. However, after meeting other international students, including Kaur and Ebrahimi, he began reaching out to a broader group of students.

“After I met these guys, it became easier to actually interact with everyone else,” Alsaif said.

DamDiverse contacts students to be featured on their page, but also has students contact them, especially as their message and page continues to grow. Kaur attributes this growth to word of mouth and the relationships the team has built with students, groups and organizations on campus. 

Since DamDiverse is not affiliated with OSU, Kaur, Alsaif and Ebrahimi do not have many restrictions regarding what students say in their posts. According to Ebrahimi, as long as students are not threatening or causing harm, DamDiverse will publish whatever they have to say, especially in light of the United States’ First Amendment. 

“In a lot of countries, you don’t have that freedom and that privilege to say what you want to say,” Ebrahimi said. “So we do encourage people to say what they want to say, to say what their experiences are, and to be honest and unfiltered.”

Alsaif said this ability to share students’ unfiltered stories is an integral aspect of DamDiverse.

“It’s a platform for everyone to be able to express whatever they want to express, just to put their story out there, to show what they’re about without having any restrictions or without feeling bounded or limited by any restrictions,” Alsaif said. 

Tatyanna Statum, a third year studying geography and geospatial science, has been featured on DamDiverse’s page. She heard about DamDiverse through a friend, and the team reached out to her after she followed their account. 

“I think DamDiverse offers a unique opportunity for diverse voices to be displayed in a more approachable format. DamDiverse also fosters a community of inclusion and makes me feel like there is a community on this campus that values and appreciates the diverse students on this campus,” Statum said via email. “I felt proud in my experience to share my story and I hope that it encouraged other black women on this campus to get involved and be proud of what they have to offer.”

Kaur said one of the most rewarding aspects of running DamDiverse is the feedback she has received from students on campus.

“As soon as we started creating this last year, a lot of people started coming up to me and saying, ‘thank you for doing this,’ because they wanted something like this but no one had done it for them,” Kaur said. “We’ve created that platform for the voices that are not heard.”

Kaur, Alsaif and Ebrahimi all said their biggest challenge is financing and balancing DamDiverse with school, jobs and social life, especially because the blog is completely funded and run by the three. Although they do not get paid, Ebrahimi describes his work with DamDiverse as valuable nevertheless.

“It’s like a full-time job that we don’t get paid for,” Ebrahimi said. “But it’s valuable. It’s a lot more valuable than any amount of money we could get from it.”

Looking forward, DamDiverse hopes to expand outside of Corvallis, to cities like Portland and Eugene. 

Ebrahimi said DamDiverse is always looking for people who are willing to help with the blog. Moreover, he encourages students to share their stories with DamDiverse, but also said the OSU community as a whole should make an effort to learn about each other’s diverse cultures and backgrounds. 

“We as individuals are very different, but when you read about everyone and you talk to them and hear their stories, you learn that we’re more similar than we are different,” Ebrahimi said. “We are all people at the end of the day.”

To learn more about DamDiverse, visit  their Instagram page under the handle @damdiverse or their Facebook page.