Hey, Curious Campus, what is UT doing to promote diversity on campus?

Megan Shen

At a school as big as UT, it can be difficult for students to find their place on campus. 

For students in minority or underrepresented groups, it can be even harder. 

So, when one of our readers asked us, “What is UT doing to promote diversity on campus?” we looked into it as part of Curious Campus, our series where we answer reader-submitted questions every week. 

The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement is the main way UT connects with minorities and other underrepresented communities on campus. The division’s executive director Helen Wormington said many people do not realize the division has so many different parts, from the Gender and Sexuality Center to the Services for Students with Disabilities.

“We look to our students for guidance because we want to make sure that what we’re doing is what the students want,” Wormington said. “At the end of the day we can do everything, and if the students don’t come or if the students aren’t going to be engaged, then there’s no reason to have something.”

Wormington said the diversity division also includes the Multicultural Engagement Center and the First Generation Initiative, which strives to have first-generation students feel like they’re included on campus. 

“I also feel like these students we have can … make a huge impact on the communities that they’re working in because they have a certain understanding of the communities that they were in here, and so when they go out into the world, they can make an impact on those communities,” Wormington said.

Nabeel Naiyer, senior student associate at the Multicultural Engagement Center, said it is essentially a giant room that houses six different organizations.

“Each one of them does event programming and puts on workshops and hosts lectures and stuff for their specific community or the community that they try to represent, but of course anyone is welcome to join,” Naiyer said. “Ideally, you learn something new — some new takeaway — and you kind of spread that knowledge among your friend group.”

Liz Elsen, director of the Gender and Sexuality Center, said that the center has events every day including a women of color discussion group, a queer, trans and feminist graduate student writing group and AIDS Services of Austin testing. The center also offers allyship workshops for campus organizations and classroom presentations.

“We encourage anyone – students, faculty, staff, queer, straight, bi, whatever – (to) come,” Elsen said. “I think sometimes people think only straight, cisgender people can be allies, but we can all do better.”

Overall, Elsen said they think it’s important for students to have a space where they can not avoid feeling the pressures of the world, while also having a blend of educational opportunities. 

“I think that UT can feel really big, and I hear from a lot of our students that that can feel really overwhelming,” Elsen said. “It is important to try and find community where we can, and to find people that make you feel welcome at UT … I hope that folks find that.”