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December 9, 2010

Seventh Annual Mix-it-Up Celebration Luncheon held at ULM

At first glance, Austin Pilcher, a senior sociology major from West Monroe, and Monica Simpson, a sophomore psychology major from Monroe, would seem to have little in common beyond their pursuit of a degree through the College of Education and Human Development at ULM.

But as the Seventh Annual "Mix-it-Up" Celebration indicated, Pilcher and Simpson actually struck a chord over something as basic as coffee.

"We both love Starbucks," said Simpson, with a smile.

Simpson was sharing a lunch table and friendly conversation not only with Pilcher, but also with Keshia Carhee, a sophomore social work major from Chicago, and Lawanda Marshall, a junior nursing major from Bossier City. About 80 students participated in this year's event.

The Mix-It-Up event is sponsored every year by the ULM Diversity Committee, which provides information about diverse perspectives and encourages students to take advantage of "mixing it up" with someone who they might not normally mingle with over lunch in Schulze Cafeteria.

To facilitate the process, the committee distributes talking points for each table, along with handouts packed with helpful information such as how to achieve cultural competency and improve communication among a variety of groups. The discussions are led by a table facilitator who helps the students make introductions and who discusses his or her own motivations for participating in the event.

Often, the motivation is as simple as recognizing the role of diversity in a society that is growing ever more diverse, according to Diversity Chair Dr. Pamela Higgins Saulsberry.

"We need to remember that diversity is the rule, rather than the exception. The constant thing is the differences, and you can find diversity in absolutely everything," she explained.

Diversity is much more than appreciating differences among different ethnic groups or races, according to Saulsberry, and those include socioeconomic status, thinking styles, fields of work, gender, sexual orientation, job classification and personality.

In addition, Saulsberry asserts that recognizing the diversity of the human condition helps alleviate arguments that lead to serious disagreements, ethnocentrism or power imbalances, which are situations and mindsets that do exist whether people are talking about their issues or not.

"However, if people talk with someone they ordinarily would not, they are more likely to find their shared humanity, than if they never cross paths," she said. "Shared humanity is a fact no matter how diverse we are, and 'Mix-it-Up' provides the opportunity to remind students and faculty of that fact."

In essence, diversity "celebrates the value of every human being," said Saulsberry.

"We have received several positive comments about the 'Mix-It-Up' luncheon," Saulsberry concluded, adding, "It's important that these kind of traditions continue at our university. We look forward to holding another great mixer next year."

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