KOKOMO, Ind. – Sometimes it’s easier to talk about hard topics with your peers, rather than a teacher or authority figure.
Indiana University Kokomo’s new equity ambassadors are prepared to have those conversations with other students on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Speaking from personal experience, I get nervous talking to people older than me about issues I might not know as much about. It’s hard for me to ask questions,” said equity ambassador Hannah Ruckman, a freshman from Kokomo. “When I’m talking to my peers, it’s a lot easier to be able to ask questions and immerse myself in that education. Our goal is to educate students and inspire them to get involved on campus.”
In addition to Ruckman, the inaugural group includes Avia Dow, a junior from Merritt Island, Florida; Evan Price, a freshman from Rossville; Jayden Emenhiser, a freshman from Lafayette; and Hayley Castillo, a sophomore from Logansport. Paola Cubides, a graduate student from Bogotá, Colombia, serves as their mentor and advisor.
All team members say they are excited about their new roles, which includes planning and implementing activities for the Multicultural Center.
Castillo said their job is to provide education, but in a way that is fun, and makes the Center a safe place for everyone.
“We don’t want it to come off as a lecture,” she said. “There are serious topics we will talk about, but we don’t want anyone to feel like we’re trying to push this on them. We want it to be inclusive.”
“We need to spread awareness and education,” said Dow. “IU Kokomo is becoming more diverse. There are so many cultures I wasn’t aware of until this year. It’s good to learn more, so when you meet someone from a different culture, you can relate to them better.”
“Being an equity ambassador is one way I can get involved on campus,” said Emenhiser. “I get to meet people from all different backgrounds and cultures and immerse myself in the IU Kokomo community.”
For Price, it’s a chance to learn more about current events.
“I’ve been interested in certain political issues, and those related to human rights,” he said. “I thought this was a great opportunity. Everyone has a unique background, and we can help teach about other cultures and backgrounds that students may not have been exposed to.”
Ruckman said diversity, equity, and inclusion is an important part of college education.
“If we are able to educate students on things they aren’t familiar with, outside of their own culture, they can diversify themselves,” they said. “They will be able to change their lives.”
Cubides said the team plays an important role in event planning.
“Having a team that is part of the student community has helped us develop more events and activities that appeal to students,” she said. “They know what students want. They are a great asset to give us the student perspective.”
Tess Barker, vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment management, received a grant from the IU Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council to fund the Equity Ambassadors program.