Inclusion. Authenticity. Home. These are all words that have been used to describe the Multicultural Student Union, one of the most popular clubs on campus. The popularity of the club is due to its ability to positively affect students’ lives.
The club is currently run by seniors Zoe Okaisabor and Kassandra Orcutt, after being founded in 2016 by A’Shaela Chaires ’18. Currently, it has over 100 members, and puts on campus-wide events that include the whole community, such as Community Identity Discussions and food tastings.
Inclusion is what drew Zoe to sign up. She joined the club after her proctor, Destiny Nwafor ’17, spoke so highly of it. As a four-year member, and the current co-president, Zoe, from Abuja, Nigeria, is most proud of the club’s impact at Williston.
“It’s great to have a diverse community, but if nothing is done with that diversity, it’s just that: diversity,” she told The Willistonian. “The point of MSU is to turn that diversity into inclusion and learn about the different cultures on campus.”
MSU hosts events like food tastings, trips off campus, dances, and Community Identity Discussions, also known as CIDs, where student speakers share stories about their life and community outside of Williston.
Senior Maddie Elsea spoke at a CID earlier this fall on “Journeys.”
“They let us share pieces of ourselves with the community that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to share,” she said. “We spend so much time focusing on labels, but CID lets us construct our own identity and support one another in that.”
Zoe hopes that some of the events, like the Hispanic food tasting, which was hosted by the MSU on October 1, not only help the international students feel more at home in the Williston community, but also educate students about different cultures and traditions.
“I think the events that we plan definitely help a lot of international students with homesickness and serve as a platform to learn about other cultures,” Zoe said.
Faculty advisor Erin Davey, also the Assistant Dean of Students, believes that the most important part of MSU is its authenticity.
“We want students to know there is a space on campus where you can come and be completely authentic,” Davey said. “We take time to break down biases, explore our own identities, and discuss current events on and off campus.”
She agreed to be the faculty advisor because of the previous club presidents.
“I was quickly connected to MSU’s former founders and leaders, A’Shaela Chaires, Triniti Slaughter, and A’Kayla Williams,” she said. “Once seeing the amazing work they were doing to create an inclusive community on campus, I quickly, eagerly, and happily, took on the role of faculty advisor.”
Davey thinks that the “thought-provoking discussions” are incredibly important ways for the community to discuss issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.
“[It is] a necessary group that helps foster an open-minded and inclusive Williston community,” Davey added.
She stated that the ongoing goal of MSU is to “create an inclusive environment with optimum participation.”
Davey continued, “We want students to know that everyone is welcome and that this group is for anyone who believes in the equity and inclusion of all human beings no matter their race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, mental health, [or] socio-economic status.”
Senior Sally Alrutz, a member of the club for three years, originally joined to get a better perspective.
“By joining MSU, I have been able to meet people from all different backgrounds and broaden my understanding of the world and diverse cultures,” she said. “Being able to sit in a room with people from every corner of the world, I am able to gain knowledge and perspective that will only prepare me for life in today’s United States.”