On Wednesday, March 6, Student Life and Leadership (SLL) held its fourth annual Diversity Dinner in the Oak Room at Salt Lake Community College’s Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
The event provided an opportunity for participants to have a meaningful dialogue with people from different backgrounds while enjoying a meal.
“This is a great opportunity to meet new people and learn from the experiences of others,” said Doctor Abio Ayeliya, SLL’s coordinator of leadership and diversity.
The Oak Room was packed with people from a wide array of descents, including Caucasian, Hispanic, Polynesian, African-American and Asian.
Seating was randomly assigned so participants would be out of their comfort zone and learn from the experiences of people they had never met
“The point isn’t to sit with your friends or family,” said Ayeliya, “The point is to meet new people from different backgrounds and have meaningful conversation with them.”
After dinner was served, groups at every table were asked to participate in three roundtable discussions that were designed to open up communication and understanding of the different backgrounds of everyone at each table.
“I wasn’t expecting to have to open up about my life with people I didn’t know,” said student Whitney Hancock. “I was definitely surprised by that.”
The first roundtable asked people to describe themselves and their values.
The second encouraged participants to share a time that they felt ashamed of their identity, and the last asked everyone to think of ways to better foster an understanding of people who are different.
“At first I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was sharing my experiences with others, but I found that I had a lot more in common with others than I thought,” said Hancock.
Each table was given twenty minutes to discuss the different questions and share experiences
At first, many were reluctant to open up, but by the final roundtable the room was filled with people deeply involved in their group conversations.
“I was really amazed at some of the experiences I heard,” said student Jon Salas. “I had no idea that people around here have had to deal with so much.”
SLCC ranks as the most diverse institution of higher learning in the state of Utah.
The dinner, much like the event, was diverse in both menu and dietary options. The main menu included salad, rice, black beans, grilled chicken, and enchiladas.
Special dietary options were available for vegetarians or those who are lactose intolerant or on gluten-free diets.
“So, maybe I came for the free meal,” said Salas, “but I left with a much better understanding of everyone at my table.”