Lee Mun Wah speaks to SIUE community about diversity

Lee Mun Wah, a Chinese American diversity trainer, will spread his knowledge across the SIUE and Edwardsville community during a two-day event that begins Aug. 27.

Diversity trainer Lee Mun Wah will visit SIUE Aug. 27 - 28 to discuss diversity with SIUE students, staff and faculty.

He will speak on campus to the public, as well as staff, faculty and students, as part of a diversity effort spearheaded by anthropology professor Aminata Cairo.

“[Bringing Lee Mun Wah to campus] was just something I wanted to do,” said Cairo, who has known about Lee Mun Wah since the1990s. “And when it comes to diversity there had been some public issues and some grumblings… and it’s always easy to complain, so I wanted to do something.”

It is important for students to attend Lee Mun Wah’s sessions about understanding diversity because, according to Cairo, students are in college for more than just “book learning.”

“That’s something I think we as a community have to facilitate and we have to help with that discussion,” Cairo said.

As for faculty and staff, Cairo said she thinks a lot of faculty members “suffer in silence” or in “isolated little communities.”

“[When we do come together, I] find that there are a lot of like-minded people and a lot of support,” Cairo said. “I wanted to find somebody who could help facilitate that discussion. I think it’s important that… when it comes to a campus climate that’s all of us together.”

Cairo said she hopes Lee Mun Wah’s visit “contributes to the change in the climate” on campus.

“You do that by little steps,” Cairo said, “and I think an important step is creating a space where it is safe to discuss certain things.”

Lee Mun Wah will host sessions both for the general public and specifically for SIUE students, staff and faculty. His keynote address, “What Stands Between Us,” will be at 7 p.m., Aug. 27, in the Meridian Ballroom and is open to the public. Immediately following the keynote, he will host a student session, “How to Have a Dialogue Across Cultures,” in the Meridian Ballroom.

On Aug. 28, Wah will host “Faculty and staff training: Diversity conversations” from 1 – 5 p.m. in the Hickory/Hackberry Room of the Morris University Center. Lee Mun Wah’s film, “If These Halls Could Talk,” will be available for public viewing at 7 p.m., Aug. 28, with a diversity discussion immediately following.

Cairo said she picked those sessions from a list of topics based on what “fit our campus needs the best.” She chose to bring Lee Mun Wah to SIUE because she wanted someone “who could work with a broad audience.”

“I really want it to be from students all the way to faculty and staff… [and I] felt he was the best person to do that,” Cairo said.

SIUE’s student community consists of African-Americans, Alaskan natives, Asian, Hawaiian Pacific Islanders, Hispanic and Caucasians, according to the 2013 SIUE Fact Book. Data from 2012 shows, according to the Fact Book, that of SIUE’s more than 14,000 students, more than 300 are international students.

Diversity, according to Cairo, is a large part of anthropological study.

“One thing that is kind of our bread and butter is teach[ing] people the appreciation of diversity and how rich diversity is,” Cairo said. “So this is what we’re all about.”

The event has the support of the university’s “We Are One” campaign, which is “a campus initiative to celebrate differences on the SIUE community and showcase the campus as a safe and welcoming place for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” according to the SIUE website.

The faculty, staff and student sessions require pre-registration. For more information, contact Cairo at (618) 650-2909.

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