Campus / News / September 21, 2009

Challenging the definition of diversity

Newly appointed Interim Director of Multicultural Student Advisement Tianna Cervantez hopes to challenge people’s definitions of diversity and dismiss the idea that she only works with certain kinds of Knox students. While she noted that her main responsibility is to serve multicultural students, she said, “I want to see the idea of diversity expanded upon. I want diversity at Knox to encompass more than students of color or GLBTQ students.”

Cervantez has close ties to the Knox community as she grew up in Galesburg and attended Knox as a non-traditional student. After graduating from Knox in 2006 with a degree in Anthropology and Sociology and minors in Journalism and Social Work, Cervantez attended the University of Chicago. After graduating with a Masters in Social Work and a specialization in violence prevention in the summer of 2008, Cervantez started working at Knox last winter.

Cervantez oversees a variety of programs at Knox. Along with directing Multicultural Student Orientation, she runs the Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI) College Success Network program, which aims to bolster retention rates among minority college students. Cervantez and TRIO coordinator Lisa Lopez run workshops that help students with everything from time management to getting internships. The fourteen Knox students who are a part of the program also receive scholarships and free textbooks.

Some of Cervantez’s other responsibilities include being a member of the Knox faculty and student diversity committee and supervising Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (ABLE) and Lo Nuestro. Cervantez recently used her background in violence prevention to help students coordinate a sexual assault workshop for first-year student orientation.

In the little time she has served in her position, Cervantez has already created change on campus. Cervantez worked with Dean of Students Xavier Romano and Professor of Educational Studies Stephen Schroth to receive an Excellencia in Education grant through Organization Semillas. The grant will allow Latina fifth graders and their mothers from Galesburg to partner with Latina students from Knox and their mothers. According to Cervantez, the purpose of the program is to, “begin working with families on breaking down myths and barriers to college.” Only one out of 20 schools that applied received the grant, and Knox College was the only liberal arts school chosen.

Along with Assistant Director of Admission and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment DeVone Euralis, Cervantez worked to include ABLE and Casa Latina in campus tours for prospective students. “We want prospective students to know that we value diversity,” she said.

At first, Cervantez said she was reluctant to return to Knox. However, she plans on staying to ensure that she fulfills her goals. Her main goal is to alter students’ ideas about her role on campus. “I still want the office to be a resource for students of color, but I don’t want students and faculty to think that my position is strictly for students of color— it can be so much more.”

Even though Cervantez said that Knox has a good amount of students and faculty of color, she hopes to see more multicultural students and faculty on campus. The most common request of students who come into her office is to see more multicultural faculty and staff on campus, she said.

Some of Cervantez’s short-term goals include converting an empty corner in the Center for Intercultural Life into a study lounge area with computers. Cervantez also hopes more students will visit the center and use it as a place to hang out. Cervantez said her favorite part of her job is, “getting to know students, and understanding how I can help them,” so she wants to see more students in the Center.

Although the job is an interim position, Cervantez hopes to get an offer to stay at Knox permanently.

Jenna Temkin

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