Students said they wanted a more inclusive and welcoming university, and Penn State heard them loud and clear.
Thursday kicked off Penn State’s “All In” initiative, a universitywide effort to bring students, faculty and staff together to help create a diverse and inclusive community.
An audience made up of Penn Staters and community members alike — including State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham — gathered on Old Main lawn to begin a yearlong celebration of all the ways people differ.
Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst said prior to the event that during the past year, he and President Eric Barron met with student focus groups who indicated that they’d like to see a more inclusive and welcoming university. “All In” emerged from those conversations.
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Penn State has a rich history of diversity and inclusion, Whitehurst told the audience. It’s deeply ingrained in the way the university recruits students and faculty, teaches and learns.
But there’s always more that can and should be done to foster inclusion, he said.
Student Brooke Jin shared her experience of arriving at the university, excited for all the opportunities in front of her and people she would meet. But she said she stopped embracing her identity when she was met with hostility toward who she was.
Jin said constantly seeking understanding about the world and each other is key.
“It all starts with the individual,” she said.
She said that strides are being made to bring the community together.
“Being human can be hard, but being all in can make it simpler,” said Susan Russell, associate professor of theater.
Diversity can be easy, but inclusion is what’s tripping people up, she said.
Russell said being all in can be “a leap into faith.”
Echoing Whitehurst’s sentiments, Barron said this is more than a one-time event; it is a recognition that there is more to be done.
“We are a rainbow. We are black lives matter. ... We have disabilities you cannot see and gifts you cannot see,” he said.
This community has an amazing potential for goodness, he added.
“We are Penn State, and we are all in,” Barron said.
As darkness arrived, a multimedia presentation played on the front of Old Main: The colors of the rainbow coated the stone columns like paint; newspaper clippings of Penn State’s efforts to end segregation stretched across the facade; faces of students looked hopefully out into the crowd; and a voice asked “Are you all in?”
As the video ended, a chant began in the audience — “We Are.”
Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619; @SarahRafacz
“All In” events
▪ National Coming Out Week, Monday-Friday
▪ First Amendment panel discussion, Oct. 27 at the HUB-Robeson Center
▪ Military Appreciation Week, Nov. 4-13
▪ Black History Month, February
Full calendar can be found at http://equity.psu.edu/allin-calendar.