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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Center for Diversity and Inclusion takes religion and spirituality head-on

Religion and spirituality are touchy subjects for most people, but the Center for Diversity and Inclusion took the topic head-on at its first Cultural Conversation of the semester Tuesday.

Students from all backgrounds filed in to share their perspectives on religion and spirituality during the hour-long discussion. The dialogue shifted from how each student related to religion or spirituality to defining what each entity meant to them to discussing ways in which students connected to a higher power.

Organizational leadership and supervision junior Chad Sebastien is a regular at the Center and said he has found his home on campus after transferring from Lee College in Baytown.

“My favorite part is seeing where everybody’s mind is and where they stand,” Sebastien said. “If you want to get involved or meet wonderful people that can help you get to your next chapter in life or just help you network, the Diversity Center is a great place.”


Students at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion gathered around and exchanged ideas on the topics of religion and spirituality. | Huy Hoang/The Cougar

The Center hosts Cultural Conversations twice a semester and aims to discuss topics that “dig a little deeper” into the diversity students share in a setting that is welcoming and relaxed.

“I think any time you’re talking about diverse topics people can get uncomfortable,” Director of the Center Niya Blair said. “But we are hoping to help move people past that uncomfortable state to understanding; we want everyone to feel good about themselves and whatever they believe.”

Each conversation is facilitated by Blair and the Center’s graduate assistant Jamie Gonzales. The two start a dialogue by asking students questions about the topic and then encourage them to expand on the issue.

“We want people to engage and educate and empower one another, and we want to be the vessel for them to do that,” Gonzales said. “We want to be a safe place so that people can know that they can come here and be whoever they want to be and that they will be welcome.”

Hotel and restaurant management junior Monique Hall said she was enlightened by the conversation and would definitely be back for future topics.

“I loved it,” Hall said. “I learned something from everybody and I was able to share my story, and I feel like because of that I was able to reach people, and people reached me as well.”

Hall and her friend Samantha Payne, also a HRM junior, said they think more students should attend the conversations.

“No matter if you’re shy or not, you don’t have to say anything, just listen,” Payne said. “You learn so much just by letting one person talk, but when you go in (the Center) you hear 15 people talk — think about how much you learn, how much your mind expands.”

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