Center Strives to Develop Leaders
Who Understand and Embrace Diversity
by Gail Matsunaga
From Dateline (March 13, 2003)
|Student and EMBRACE director Catherine Tiah,
left, and Andi Sims, coordinator of the Multicultural Leadership
Center, encourage understanding and celebration of diversity
in tomorrow's leaders through the MLC's programming, resources
During a recent tour of the Museum of Tolerance
in Los Angeles, attendees approached two doors - one labeled “prejudiced,”
the other “non- prejudiced-and were invited to go through
the door they felt best represented their views. A man
stepped up to the non- prejudiced door and found he couldn't open
And that was the whole point of that particular exhibit:
that none of us is free from biases.
Here, while the diversity of students makes for an
enriching and dynamic university experience, it also can, at times,
bring out preconceived notions and stereotypes toward those who
may appear different. Developing leaders who will understand and
embrace diversity - and thus, set an example for others to follow
- is the mission of the Multicultural Leadership Center (MLC).
Among tomorrow's potential movers and shakers
is senior psychology major Catherine Tiah, who, for the past three
semesters, has been director of Educating Myself for Better Racial
Awareness & Cultural Enrichment (EMBRACE) - a leadership
certificate program offered through the center.
Students who complete EMBRACE may become facilitators.
They learn about themselves, as well as about current diversity
issues, and are trained to educate their peers through workshops.
“Diversity training is something everyone should
have,” adds Tiah. “As long as we stick with our own
groups, we won't become familiar with others, and prejudice
derives from ignorance.”
The program, she explains is “very unique, because
learning is mutual. We're not instructors, but basically facilitators.”
And this, says Tiah, can be “very challenging. It challenges
me to look at myself first, and challenges others to look at themselves.
“It has increased my self-awareness, how I view
As an international student from Singapore, Tiah had
her own preconceived ideas about the United States, thanks in large
part, to having access to American television. In some ways it helped
her adjust to the culture, but she also was “hit by reality
when I came here” and experienced discrimination.
“It surprised me, yes and no. I wanted to believe
people are progressive.”
The Multicultural Leadership Center was established
two years ago and provides multicultural resources and programming,
as well as leadership and diversity training, such as EMBRACE.
According to Andi Sims, center coordinator, the MLC
offers advisement and assistance to recognized cultural and ethnic
organizations. This semester, its involvement includes Black History
Month, “The Vagina Monologues,” Women's History
Month and Asian-Pacific Heritage Month.
At commencement time, the center collaborates with
university faculty and staff associations, and cultural and ethnic
organizations to coordinate recognition ceremonies celebrating the
achievements of students.
As for the future of the MLC, Sims hopes to create
an EMBRACE program geared toward faculty and staff members.
For Tiah, the importance of the Multicultural Leadership
Center is that “it helps students approach diversity - because
we are diverse. It's a good way to prevent prejudice from turning
into discrimination. What we are doing is a lot of preventive work.”
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