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This Is Me at UNT: Candid talk gives students outlet regarding issues of inclusion

Facilitating inclusion and unity was the ultimate goal of the “This Is Me at UNT” event hosted by the newly formed Student Support Task Force Oct. 11 and Oct. 12. “This Is Me” was designed to encourage students to consider what inclusion may or may not feel like at UNT. Students, staff and faculty gathered on the Library Mall in a joint effort to create a safe climate for students to explore issues of intersectionality and acceptance and learn about resources on campus.

“I’ve found UNT to be a lot more inclusive and easier to fit in than my high school,” says Sarah Ali, a Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science student. “There are more opportunities to experience new things and it’s a much more diverse atmosphere.”

Members of the Student Support Taskforce included students from identity-based student organizations like the Pride Alliance and Multicultural Center. The event was sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Several tents were set up on the mall that hosted different activities allowing attendees to participate in poster creation, video testimonials, written expressions on the free speech board and frank discussions with faculty, staff and students. Educational materials and pamphlets included an extensive list of resources and services offered to students who are seeking community engagement.

“I’m just getting over a social anxiety disorder, so my first semester was very hard,” says Kristen Martschinsky, a junior sociology major. “These types of events where I am able to speak out and voice my opinion help me.”

Several students stopped by to complete a poster about the forms of microaggressions and stereotyping that they face daily. The posters gave an opportunity to combat common stereotypes associated with their identities or intersectionality of multiple identities.

"You’d be surprised how many times I am asked if I’m a legal citizen each week by other students on campus,” says Maria Torres, a sophomore and biomed major. Maria’s poster read, “Yes, I’m legal.”

Students were invited to write out the most common misconceptions they face on the front of the poster, and on the back, they wrote what is true about themselves. The activities provided students an opportunity to share their personal experiences and perspectives and will be used as the basis for a panel discussion in the UNT Union at a later date. That discussion is intended to be an open forum for healthy and healing dialogue. Students, community officials and staff members will be invited to participate.

“We’re hoping to get real feedback from our students so that we can work to improve what we currently have as a challenge to our university, “ says Teresa McKinney, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. “We would like to do more than just collect data, we’d like to make sure UNT is an example for unity.”

- Ashley Boyd, student writer, UNT News