What makes you unique? It’s a question the Writing Center and Multicultural Programs is looking for students of California Lutheran University to answer in this year’s Diversity Storytelling Contest.
The prompt is to write a 700-word personal narrative about how you discovered your identity using real life experiences.
“This is an idea I came up with Daniel Lawrence and we were talking about how diversity is such a big theme this year and will continue to be a theme with students and staff,” Writing Center Director and Assistant Professor of the English Department Scott Chiu said. “We were thinking about how we can work together to promote and join the movement at CLU for greater diversity.”
Chiu said when talking to Juanita Hall, Senior Director of Multicultural Programs, said thirteen years ago there was a storytelling contest where students could talk about their culture and where they come from. The idea was to make diversity among students more visible through the stories.
“I said why did it go away for thirteen years? I said why don’t we just do it? She said if we want to do it, let’s do it, the resources are there. So we jumped at it,” Chiu said.
With time being an issue, Chiu and a handful of staff members came together to come up with a prompt and marketing materials. The group created a video as a promotional tool and spread the word throughout campus with school wide emails and posters.
Students of the Writing Center were asked to submit their own stories as podcasts to provide others with some ideas. One of those student examples came from freshman Gina Kim.
“To me the contest is about your identity and when you found out who you were,” Kim said.
In Kim’s submission, she talked about how it wasn’t until going to Germany that she discovered who she was.
“I was really confused before then and when I got there I kind of knew I wanted to be a musician, but I wasn’t sure,” Kim said. “What I found out about myself while I was there was that I wanted to be a musician, but I also realized that I’m pretty resilient.”
Another student example came from freshman Ariana Nelson. Nelson said to her the contest was not just talking about who you are, but also how that affects how you interact in society.
“I moved around a lot when I was little, so my story was about how I figured out who I was being multiracial and moving around to different parts of the United States and even Japan for a little while,” Nelson said. “My story is who I am despite everyone.”
Both students were very supportive of the contest and enjoyed the experience of telling their story.
“I think the basis of the contest is it’s not a writing contest or an essay contest, it’s just tell us about yourself, tell us why you’re unique, tell us what makes you, you. I think everyone can talk about who they are,” Nelson said.
Kim said everyone could benefit from telling their story.
“I think by submitting students would learn about what makes them different, what makes them who they are,” Kim said. “It would create a better sense of community because we can realize that we are all different, but we can all share our differences together,” Kim said.
The contest is accepting submissions until March 15th. You can submit online through the Writing Center website.
Published March 9th, 2016