In 1997, the Students Accomplishing Diversity Enrichment came together to educate about diversity across campus. While SADE did receive the Columbia Value Diversity Award, it disbanded after two years of being in existence.
The success of SADE made MU realize the importance of an organization on campus that educates students about diversity.
The first Train-the-Trainers workshop, a program put on by the Multicultural Center, educated the first group of Diversity Peer Educators in 1999.
DPE is a student organization that gives experiential exercises and then facilitates the conversation afterwards DPE Student Coordinator Mary Bifulco said.
“A lot of what they’re offering right now is facilitations, which expand your education on diversity related topics,” Multicultural Center Coordinator Stephanie Hernandez said. “So, a lot of topics that are covered have to do with gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and gender expression.”
Each facilitation session is tailored to the requesting group based upon previous knowledge of the individuals within the FIG, fraternities, sororities, classroom or student organization.
“One example of what we do is called a ‘privilege walk’,” Bifulco said. “Everybody starts in the same line and we say statements such as ‘if you owned more than 50 books growing up, take a step forward’ or ‘if you have ever been harassed by the police because of your race or ethnicity, take a step backward.’ The idea is to get kind of a concrete representation of all the privileges and oppressions that happen in our society.”
Each year the DPE hosts the Train-the-Trainers program, which allows individuals to learn a little more about diversity and enjoy a free lunch. This year’s date is not set in stone.
“It gives participants a chance to go through all of our exercises. So, it’s kind of an intensive day where we talk about the best ways to teach all of our programs so anyone that’s there can really get a good idea of what we have to offer,” Bifulco said.
This provides not only an opportunity for group leaders to get an idea of what DPE offers, but also increases individual knowledge and allows perspective into the organization.
“We are always looking for new DPEs,” Bifulco said. “We are growing a lot and are getting a lot more requests.”
Applications to join DPE can be found at multiculturalcenter.missouri.edu under Diversity Peer Educators. Applications may be submitted at any time. Recruiting will begin in late fall.
“To join you would need to be really willing to talk about difficult subjects. We talk about really hard things most of the time, like racism, sexism (and) heterosexism,” Bifulco said.
Previous experience is not needed as long as recruits are willing to learn and be wrong some of the time, Bifulco said.
“You go through a training process, that’s a year long,” Bifulco said. “We’re not experts obviously but we want to know enough to answer questions or address things that come up.”
Each DPE goes through diversity and facilitation training, along with group discussions based upon various reading material and personal experience.
“We each have a facilitation book, so it provides kind of a general education,” Hernandez said. “Then there’s different facilitations that occur that are outlined within that book.”
Diversity Peer Educators provides a unique learning experience for all involved and is steadily expanding across campus.
“I can say that when I’m in the room, when I’m in that space, there is a shift I think in perspective for a lot of people who are present in the way that they think about these topics,” Hernandez said. “I think that’s the point of what diversity peer educators does, is help you think outside of what you believe might be your norm or the norm.”
Representatives of the DPE will be present at the Multicultural Center open house on September 11 from 1-3 p.m.