Unity College President Melik Peter Khoury delivered the keynote speech at a student-led World Cafe event Friday to discuss the local, national, and global dimensions of diversity from student perspectives.
Organized by the Unity College Student Government Association and titled “For the Sake of Unity: Flourishing Our Present and Future Diversity,” the event was designed to allow students, staff, and faculty a forum to share alternative points of view regarding diversity.
Khoury’s address underlined his own experiences as a first-generation American.
In his talk, Khoury gave the audience a first-person perspective of how diversity helps organizations succeed, citing examples from his own multicultural upbringing. Khoury told students that the most dynamic organizations in his experience practiced inclusion and celebrated the accomplishments of all their people.
“Unity College is about being able to be different. Urban or rural, women or men, foreign or local. It’s OK to be different,” Khoury told students. “That’s the meaning of Unity. Let’s embrace it. Let’s enjoy it. Your difference will be respected here.”
Several dozen students attended the event, which Student Government Association President John Karczyak ‘16 said would provide “serious, dynamic and sometimes controversial conversations” about diversity.
“It’s my hope that this is an annual event that we can use to help diversity flourish at Unity College,” Karczyak said.
Derrick Bates ’17, a residence hall advisor and World Cafe organizer, told students that, to understand diversity, “it’s important to listen to another person speaking.”
“The thing that really makes you different is your thought process and what you value as a human being,” Bates said. “What else do we have besides our values?”
Several dozen attendees broke into small groups to discuss their definitions of diversity and responded to a set of predetermined questions, such as, “What are the dimensions and implications of diversity on a local level, and how does that compare to a global level?”
After the program, incoming Student Government Association President Gunnar Norback ‘17 said the World Cafe was “a structured conversation intended to facilitate open and intimate discussion.”
“We welcome a space for alternative points of view, and we hope to access the collective wisdom in the room to gather a beginning understanding of the dimensions of diversity,” he said. “We anticipate events like this will help us, as a community, develop greater capacity to understand another’s perspectives without sacrificing one’s own.”