The President’s Commission on Equity (PCOE) funded four programs that help promote a culture of excellence, as well as contribute to the value of diversity at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
The PCOE is represented by a committee of selected students, faculty, presidential appointees and staff. The commission was formed in spring 2017 in an effort to bring the university community together to discuss important issues that surround the diverse population according to the university website.
The four selected programs all help create lasting impacts on the university’s culture by focusing on themes that involve equity, inclusion and diversity. They include: the Visual Impairment Awareness Workshop ( $2,500); The Panza Monologues ($750); the Mexican American Student Association ($700); and Safe Zones ($500). Grant applicants are allowed to apply for a maximum of $2,500.
Commission members says they enjoy the opportunity to select which program are funded. Ramona Pittman, associate professor in the Department of Educator and Leadership Preparation and PCOE member, notes the importance of the funds for the selected programs.
“We want to see an impact,” Pittman said. “It’s very important to help continue building a culture of inclusivity by helping big programs get bigger, so the community can see how we are all similar.”
Each program went through a rigorous evaluation process before grants were awarded. Only four programs were selected among the approximate 20 submissions.
Sukho Lee, associate chair of the Department of Counseling, Health & Kinesiology and PCOE member, spoke about the selection process and why programs like the Vision Impairment Awareness Workshop were chosen.
“We validate all the proposals,” Lee said. “The proposals selected can provide knowledge and experience to the general community. This perfectly fits our mission values of equity and inclusion.”
Visual Impairment Awareness Workshop
The Visual Impairment Awareness Workshop is a program instructed by Eunhye Kwon, an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Health & Kinesiology.
The purpose of the workshop is to introduce and understand important information about people with visual impairments.
The grant Kwon received for the workshop was spent on devices such visual-impairment-kits and a walking cane which help simulate the difficulties visually impaired people experience.
“I observed many students with disabilities on this campus,” Kwon said. “So, I thought it would be a great for students without disabilities understand how those with disabilities interact with the environment.”
The workshop falls directly in line with PCOE’s mission, creating an opportunity for students to understand what makes each other different.
“The activities we had students do really helped,” Kwon said. “The students who attended will hopefully interact better with people with disabilities. We hope it improves our awareness and knowledge towards them.”
The Panza Monologues
The Panza Monologues is a performance that celebrates stories of women’s health and sisterhood, directed by Adriana Santos, assistant professor of English.
Based on the series of monologues written, compiled, and collected by Virgina Grise and Irma Mayorga, the Panza Monologues incorporates solo performances from women that are based around their panzas, or stomachs. The production is an homage to the Mexican-American women of San Antonio, Texas.
Santos is proud of what the event represents and the impact it has on the university. The grant from the PCOE has helped her provide funding for the production cost.
“It was important to apply for this grant,” Santos said. “The production is really reflective of our students and their families. I think the large attendance also shows that the community wants to see performances like this in general.”
Mexican-American Student Association
The Mexican American Student Association (MASA) is an A&M-San Antonio student organization that encourages Mexican-American cultural pride. Formed in 2015, MASA holds many events around the campus and community.
Many of MASA’s events, such as the Dia de los Muertos Altar Display, are aimed to promote diversity and celebrate hispanic tradition. Jeanette Lopez, senior and president of MASA, is proud that these events don’t feel “sanitized” and that they “think outside the box.”
The funding MASA earned from the grant provides the organization an alternative source for funding events, instead of having to rely solely on fundraisers.
“Normally we have to depend on student fundraising,” Lopez said. “We are very grateful for fundraising but the grant saved us a lot of time and allowed us to explore other options for things such as food. The money was hard-earned and very much appreciated. Every dollar we receive is spent on promoting our organization’s values.”
Safe Zones (National Coming Out Week)
National Coming Out Week events are a collaboration among many departments and organizations at A&M-San Antonio. Some of these include LGBTQ student organization The Coalition and Safe Zones, a program that provides settings for students, faculty and staff to learn more about terminology and labeling.
National Coming Out Week helps raise visibility for LGBTQ issues and offers a supportive community for those who struggle with embracing their identity. It also provides a chance for the LGBTQ population on campus to share and celebrate their stories and experiences.
Katherine Gillen, assistant professor of English and former chairman of Safezone, is proud of the grant and the opportunities it offers.
“It helps to create a welcoming community,” Gillen said. “It’s extremely important that we embrace diversity and all kinds of students here at the school because we have so many. National Coming Out Week sends the message that everybody is welcome here and that everyone can learn from each other.”
The Office of the President will announce a new round of funds for proposals for Fall 2018. Eligible university programs can visit the PCOE website to view the grant application process as well as learn more about the commission and the selected winners.