Declassified: Diversity work requires work

For the first half of my life, I had terrible allergies. Starting in March every year it became progressively more difficult for me to breathe, despite the nasal spray and pills I would down each hour. At the height of my congestion I would beg and plead to whatever god was listening for the chance to breathe clearly for just five minutes. Yet the season would pass, and I would forget to cherish my crystal clear airways until, once again, they were gone.

My experience with diversity programming has been similar, where I’ve noticed a tendency to take for granted the tireless effort associated with it until these opportunities disappear. Just in my four years at Trinity, we went from not having any staff or student advisers dedicated solely to diversity to gaining phenomenal director Ali Roman and a dedicated space marginalized students could call our own. I still remember tearing up the first time I hung out with friends in the Diversity and Inclusion Office, as I truly never envisioned such an intersectional and energetic space could exist here.

My own organization, the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), went from a club with issues retaining membership and claiming top priority of its officers to raising thousands of dollars for charity and creating one of the most successful rebranding campaigns of a club to date (keep an eye out for VSA shirts around campus). Our signature event, Lunar New Year, began 10 years ago with fewer than 50 attendees in the Fiesta Room and now hosts hundreds of guests in one of the largest student-organized events on campus at Laurie Auditorium .

Without the tireless efforts of everyone involved in making these breakthroughs possible, the pressures of classwork and dwindling populations of certain demographics would guarantee a reversion to pre-established norms. I have seen clubs die out within a semester of their most passionate advocate’s graduation, and campus-wide favorites receive 1/10th their average attendance due to avoidable miscalculations.

There are many ways for you to get involved with cultural programming, beginning as early as the Student Activity Fair the day before you even officially begin college. Sign up for the mailing list of a club whose cause you feel passionate about, attend a dialogue or panel whose topic may be outside your wheelhouse, come to the mixer hosted by the Asian cultural clubs in the first weeks of school. I challenge you to do whatever both makes you excited and leaves an impact on this campus, no matter how small it may seem.

After several years championing involvement in cultural organizations on campus, I’m beginning my senior year with a focus on advisory and sustainability. The onus of innovating and advocating for cultural spaces is no longer with me and my classmates.

However, there are many leaders you can connect with for advice or inspiration. Arisha Ali, Kezia Nyarko, Manveena Singh, Arianna Siddiqui, Carson Bolding, Chiara Pride, Sandra Nguyen: These women and many more have done amazing work within their respective tenures, and I hope you learn from them as I do every day I am in their presence.

However you choose to get involved, I hope I’ve made apparent how important it is for your graduating class to become the best and most forward-thinking Trinity has seen. It is likely I will be forgotten after I graduate at the end of this year, and I sincerely hope that is because you all accomplished more than I could ever dream of.