Trinity joins Southwestern University for leadership retreat

More than 30 Trinity students will travel to the T Bar M Resort in New Braunfels, TX this upcoming weekend, Sept. 7 and 8.  The students will join other leaders from Southwestern University for a two-day multicultural retreat about diversity.

Coordinator for diversity and intercultural relations, Soi Inthavong, has partnered with Terri Johnson of Southwestern to organize this event. Johnson, assistant dean for multicultural affairs, was approached by Inthavong about joining the Pirates’ already successful conference.

Inthavong is optimistic about what students will garner from the experience.

“My goal is to get students passionate about diversity so that they are empowered to continue activism on campus,” Inthavong said.

All expenses paid, the retreat will feature breakout sessions, workshops and presentations by Trinity and Southwestern professors. Dr. Amy Stone of the sociology and anthropology department will conduct a talk on LGBT issues to Trinity students.

Trinity participants include representatives from all grade levels and various ethnic clubs on campus.
President of the Chinese Culture Club (CCC), treasurer of the Korean Student Association (KSA) and liaison for Trinity Diversity Connection (TDC) is Si Ying Li, a senior and participant in the retreat.

“It will be interesting to partner with another university to see how they do things on their campus,” Li said.

On the application form, registered students were asked what they expected to gain from the retreat. Responses included a desire to promote activism on campus, a wish to meet new people and learn about their cultures and a need to improve leadership skills.

“I want to learn ways to better my organization,” said Breanna Willis, a sophomore attending and the sitting vice president for Trinity’s Black Student Union (BSU). “BSU has a goal to work more with other campus clubs and so I hope the retreat will help us do that.”

The retreat, which aims to create more socially just campuses, has prompted individual reflection in both Li and Willis. Both women want to share their respective cultures with the greater Trinity community and welcome prospective members from all backgrounds.

Li, who is originally from China but has been a United States citizen since immigrating at 7 years old, is eager to share the roots she once felt disconnected from. She wants to correct the misconceptions people have of Asian and Chinese customs.

“When I moved here, I became Americanized.  I got into all of these cultural clubs to rediscover myself. I did not want to lose my culture,” Li said. “I hope that people can get outside of their own group and know the real Chinese traditions.”

While Willis did seek out BSU to share familiar experiences and customs with fellow African Americans, she stresses the openness of her club and their ability to accept.

“We are willing to work with or collaborate with anyone. We want to make this work because anyone can be a part of BSU. You don’t have to be black,” Willis said.

Inthavong notices a common trend present in many stories and says that ethnic clubs provide a safe space for people to explore and maintain their identities. Although Inthavong wants students to have that support, she does want them to share their identities with others as well.

The conference, for Inthavong, is only the starting point. TDC is hosting “Celebrating Awareness Week” Sept. 10-14 and a keynote lecturer, Kevin Brown, soon afterwards. Brown will focus on the negative and positive labels that are often associated with diversity.