KUTZTOWN, PA – KUDOS, Kutztown University’s Dedication to Outstanding Service, focuses on university administrative departments and the individuals within them, giving the campus community a better look inside many of the working areas on campus.
This week, we sat down with the Office of Multicultural Services to get an inside look at the dedicated individuals who provide the KU community with a safe learning environment filled with various inclusive activities to help them better understand cultural and racial identity and awareness.
UR: Can you introduce yourselves and tell us how long you’ve been with KU?
RB: My name is Rhonda Branford and I’m the director of the Kutztown University Multicultural Center. I have been at the university almost 35 years; I started in 1984 and since then I’ve had three different positions at the university.
DT: My name is Deasia Thompson, I’m a senior Spanish major and political science minor and I’m a student worker. This is my first year working at the MCC.
MK: I’m Michael Kleppinger, I’m a junior transfer student and I’m also a student worker. My major is applied digital arts.
LA: My name is Lillian Anabui, I’m a student worker and my major is sociology.
UR: What is your department’s role and mission at the university?
RB: Working in the area of multiculturalism and diversity, our goal is to bring people together from different backgrounds and provide them with skills and social interactions that will make them more globally competent.
DT: Our mission is multiculturalism and promoting diversity among students. It’s our job to be accepting of everyone and their backgrounds because everyone has their own uniqueness.
UR: Can you explain your department’s staff make-up and responsibilities?
RB: Aside from myself, our office manager, Miss Faith Riedel, performs all of the clerical responsibilities, as well as interacts with most of our students. She also runs some of our programs and has been the foundation of our office since she started more than two years ago. The students really enjoy her. A lot of what I do is related to programming, like helping put together our social and leadership programs. I also lead some diversity training and supervise our graduate assistants. I have fun with the students in this position. Nothing is ever the same every day, so there’s a lot of different things going on; I like to be hands-on and involved in all of it.
DT: I set up showcases to help inform the campus community. I’m currently working on the women’s history month showcase, which requires me to research history and background information. For example, I’m currently working on the women’s history month showcase, so I’m looking into five women in math, science, and politics.
MK: My job is similar to Deasia’s. Last month, Lillian and I set up the Black History Month showcase. I also help out with MCC events, as well as communicate between our staff to make sure everyone is well-informed and up-to-date with what is going on. I also help make event flyers.
LA: I assist in those areas as well, which I think is useful because it allows us to learn more about different cultures and genders so that we can be more aware when we interact with the campus community. I also help run events and maintain close relationships with everyone in the office so that we’re all on the same page.
UR: How does your department serve students and the campus community?
RB: We offer leadership opportunities for students, as well as diversity training. We provide a safe place on campus for people to come together and interact. Sometimes we talk about the tougher conversations pertaining to social justice and things going on in our society that affect not only people of color, but also affect the population in general.
MK: Our department offers a diverse perspective that may not show on other campuses. We have a very welcoming feel, which is a big part of our motto. We try to make sure that people of all cultures and ethnicities are welcome and not at a disadvantage living here in Kutztown.
LA: We serve as a safe haven on campus for students. Whenever they want to rest, study, or even just talk, they can come here. We’re a home away from home for students if they need it.
DT: Almost all of our events, including salsa lessons and travel around the world, are open to the greater Kutztown community. We do this to bring in people so that they can understand more about each culture we try represent. Everyone is welcome to come try new events, experience things they never would’ve thought to experience before.
UR: What are the points of pride in your department?
RB: I’m proud of our graduate assistants, our office manager, and our student workers. When we put a program together, everyone is involved. We make a great team. I think we pull off some very interesting events that are not just fun, but educational as well.
DT: I’m proud of the amount of events that we offer, the welcoming atmosphere, and the fact that I’m always able to learn something new.
LA: This place brings up leaders. When I first started coming here, I didn’t have any type of skills, like time management or the ability to run an organization. Being here has helped me learn those skills, as well as learn how to be open to all types of people. All types of students come in every day, so interacting with them has helped me grow as a person.
MK: I’m proud of how diverse our staff is. I think that we should also pride ourselves on our ability to provide different types of food from all over the world. A lot of students come to our events for the food, but then end up learning something about that culture and wanting to become more involved with the MCC.
UR: What would you like people to know about your department that they may not know already?
RB: I think a lot the campus community already knows that we’re diverse; but, unfortunately sometimes when people think of multiculturalism, they just think it’s for people of color. Multiculturalism is supposed to be inclusive. So, I think we do have some students and even employees who are hesitant to interact with us and participate in our activities because they’re not sure if it’s supposed to be for them. It is!
LA: You are welcome here. We really can’t stress it enough. Anyone can come and enjoy themselves. Don’t be scared by our name – we’re very nice!
DT: If you have an event idea for something that isn’t currently represented at KU that you’d like to see represented, you can pitch the idea to us. We’d be happy to talk to Rhonda or Miss Faith about it and see what we can do to help.
UR: How can the campus community learn more or become involved with your department?
RB: They can learn about us through social media. We post things on Snapchat and Facebook, one of our students makes radio announcements, and we post flyers in the residence halls and departments about our upcoming programs. To get more actively involved with our office, KU students can join our outreach program with the Reading School District. Through this program, we bring in high school students three times a semester to shadow KU students, which is when they’ll attend college classes so that they can understand what a college classroom is like. The primary reason we bring them here is so that they can get acclimated to college life, which takes some of the fear of college away and makes them more comfortable in the environment. It helps them understand that college isn’t just for other people – it can be for them as well. KU students can also get involved by attending our leadership academy workshops every other week, or by attending the fun events like salsa lessons. Faith and I both have open door policies, so anyone can always come in, see what’s going on, and find out how they can participate.
MK: We post a lot on social media, especially Instagram. I actually go on KUR weekly to make sure students, faculty and staff know what events we have to offer that week. Our events are also featured on the potty paper.
LA: I try to support other organizations’ events, and I always mention the MCC while I’m there. Connecting with other organizations and maintaining positive relationships with them is primarily how I spread the word about what we do outside of social media.
DT: We also have a weekly email newsletter that we send out to people who attend our events. If you’d like to attend or know more about us, you can always email us and ask to be put on the list.
UR: What’s your favorite thing about your KU experience?
RB: KU has been good to me. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, and had great mentors and wonderful students who really care about their fellow students and the environment at Kutztown. I’ve had a number of different opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had if I worked somewhere else.
LA: I’ve grown a lot as a person here on this campus. When I first got here, I was very shy. The MCC was the first organization I found on campus, and coming here helped me become more active and aware. I learned how to network, and that’s such a valuable asset.
DT: I’ve definitely grown to be more involved on campus. The MCC has helped me learn how to take on and balance different roles in my life. I’m much better at managing time and I’ve become much more responsible, which will be great for future job opportunities.
MK: I’ve become much friendlier and gotten better at networking. I’ve made a lot of connections and new friends since I transferred, and now I know that I’ll be able to continue doing that throughout the rest of my career.
UR: What does “It’s Good to be Golden” mean to you?
RB: I think golden is a state of mind, like when you’re clear-headed, relaxed and focused, but I also think it means that it’s good to be part of the KU community.
MK: It’s good to be a part of Kutztown.
LA: It’s good to be a golden bear!
DT: I think it means that it’s good to live up to your full potential. Being at KU helps you gain that potential so that you can keep on going once you leave.
KUDOS is published twice monthly by the office of University Relations. All issues can be found at www.kutztown.edu/KUDOS.