About Jennifer O'Donnell

Web Communications Manager

First Year Student Refelects on the Multicultural Leadership Institute

Diversity and related taboo issues have always captured my interest, and at Multicultural Leadership Institute we dug into these topics every day as whole group of 30 freshmen and also in smaller groups with a Student Resource Person (SRP) leader. We had about 3 workshops per day, and our topics included Socioeconomic Class, Privilege, Race, Gender & Sexuality, Spirituality & Religion, and Leadership. As we delved into these heavy topics, we really got to know one another on a concrete and fundamental level within only a few days—something I had not experienced with previous classmates I had known for years. It was freeing to be able to speak honestly with each other, without the fear of becoming an outcast or being labeled in a negative way.

My favorite workshop was the Spirituality and Religion Workshop. There were students who had grown up in one denomination or religion but had switched to another, those that were unsure about the religion that they had grown up with, and those who had followed the same religion their entire lives. As this was one of our final workshops, we had gotten to know each other well beforehand and were comfortable enough to go around the circle and share a statement about our religious background. Even being in a room of friends, sharing my Christian identity was still scary. However, openly discussing our faiths ended up being an empowering experience. I am less afraid of rejection. I know that if I discuss my faith with people who are close minded or rude, I won’t take derogatory comments as personally now because their intolerance is their problem, not mine. With this confidence, I can continue to love those who reject and belittle my beliefs without feeling insecure.

—Alexis Etzkorn ’15