Ernesto Mejia, the proud son of Mexican immigrants, believes in taking advantage of the abundance of opportunities presented through education.
Mejia will present “My View of the American Dream” as part of Diversity Week at University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Diversity Week is Monday, Feb. 22, through Friday, Feb. 26, featuring more than a dozen virtual and on-campus events.
Mejia will speak from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. His presentation will be streamed live in the Terrace of the Memorial Student Center and also available on Zoom.
Diagnosed with the rare disease of Guillain-Barre Syndrome at the age of 16 that left him temporarily paralyzed, Mejia was not supposed to be a successful student, let alone a college administrator. Drawing from his hardships, he speaks to students, parents and teachers about overcoming obstacles and never giving up on life’s dreams, including the American dream of education.
Mejia’s speaking event is sponsored by the Stout Student Association, Latinos Unidos, Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Black Student Union and Hmong Stout Student Organization.
Harri Bien-Aime, the SSA’s equity, diversity and inclusion director and a senior majoring in business administration from Queens, N.Y., who was part of the planning process for Diversity Week, encouraged people to take part. “It’s an opportunity for reflection and to build on experience,” Bien-Aime said. “UW-Stout has made a lot of progress on the diversity front.”
SSA Senator Shana Haas, of Greenwood, a senior majoring in rehabilitation services, said “the offerings are very inclusive of different marginalized communities. The content is unique and powerful; for some students, it can provide a space to learn more about being inclusive and equitable, and for others it might be a space for recognition and validation of their experiences.
“Having events like these helps elevate voices we may not typically hear in a few ways,” Haas added. “For one, it's a reminder that these voices should be at the front of conversations about what we, as an institution and as individuals, can improve on. Learning ways to be more inclusive and equitable is something that we can all take beyond Diversity Week into our personal and professional lives as well, which is a big step in elevating those voices. It's also a space to start reflection and difficult conversation that may not happen otherwise.”
Diversity Week kicks off from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22, with Penumbra, a group that utilizes the power of the creative performing arts to create more inclusive, compassionate communities. In Our Stories Ourselves, facilitators will share personal stories about early encounters with race and racism. Participants will learn and explore how race, gender, class and other identity markers shape opportunities, success and circumstances; reflect on how intersectional identities determine how the world is seen and how the world sees participants; and act and feel empowered to intervene in oppressive behaviors as they happen.
The event is sponsored by SSA, BSU, Latinos Unidos, Dean of Students and the Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center.
Dominique Vargas, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, noted Penumbra was chosen to start the week with storytelling and discussion, and to lay the groundwork for the week ahead.
The week includes a discussion on religion, family privilege and racism, Vargas said. “This is a chance to open the door to some of these conversations,” Vargas said. “We are making sure as many voices as possible are included in the week. We are trying to center as many voices as possible throughout the week. One event, or one week, is never enough to celebrate individual identities, but it is a place to start to do some work.”
A virtual art exhibit will be available throughout the week for students of marginalized identities to showcase their art, poetry, videos and more.
All events and links to attend them, including the art exhibit, are available on UW-Stout’s Connect system or the University Calendar.
On Monday, Feb. 22, from 6 to 7 p.m., the Honors College will sponsor and present a virtual event on Teams with UW-Stout faculty and staff discussing “Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution,” an award-winning documentary about the disability rights movement produced by Netflix with Barack and Michelle Obama. The film is available on YouTube.
Other events include:
Tuesday, Feb. 23:
11 a.m. to noon, Family Privilege, Teams, sponsored by Fostering Success. Presenters will discuss family privilege within the context of the Fostering Success program.
1 to 3 p.m., Multicultural Student Services open house on Facebook.
6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Sassy Lassy USO Game Show virtual event. Sponsored by Blue Devil Productions and SSA. Register here.
Wednesday, Feb. 24:
4 to 5 p.m., Diversity Week Trivia with Kahoot, sponsored by SSA and McNair Scholars Program, Teams.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Teams, Jim Handley, senior lecturer of peace studies and geography and executive director for Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, will speak on “Why White People Should Be Anti-Racist.” Sponsored by applied peace studies program.
7:30 to 9:45 p.m., Screening and panel discussion on the film “Paris is Burning,” a look into the historical ballroom scene in New York. Sponsored by the Qube. Register here.
Thursday, Feb. 25:
Noon to 1 p.m., Adaptations in Indigenous Resiliency, on Teams. Speakers Dylan Jennings, director public information office, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission; Eleanore Falck, Growing up Ojibwe: The Game creator and game design and development-art major. They will address indigenous people’s storytelling.
4 to 5:15 p.m., Bob Salt, professor of human development and family studies, an ordained interfaith minister and graduate of the New Seminary in New York City, will present on Teams a summary of the history of religion, including basic concepts and goals of the many religions around the world. Sponsored by HDFS program.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Celebrating Black History: Black Contributions to Civil Liberty, on Teams, panelists Le’Trice Donaldson, UW-Stout assistant professor in the applied social science department, Selika Ducksworth-Lawton of UW-Eau Claire and Lynette McNeely with Wisconsin’s NAACP will present. Sponsored by the Menard Center for the Study of Institutions and Innovation, Honors College, Center for Applied Ethics, BSU and SSA.
7 to 8 p.m., Queer and Trans People of Color students will share their experiences at UW-Stout and in Menomonie via Teams. Sponsored by the Qube.
Friday, Feb. 26:
3 to 4 p.m., Cultural Storytime: Stories That Shape Us, via Teams. The Multicultural Student Service office staff will share their unique stories. Participants will be allowed time to share their stories as well.