Mercyhurst president announces diversity grant recipients

From one-act plays to a spring prom for mentally challenged teenagers to a week-long celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, Mercyhurst College will support 30 projects during the next two academic trimesters that are aimed at fostering diversity.

Mercyhurst College President Dr. Michael J. McQuillen approved grants totaling $36,692 to 30 college clubs, organizations or departments. Each of the grants funds an activity that will highlight diversity either ethnically, culturally or racially.

When he took office in March 2005, McQuillen announced to the Mercyhurst College community his intent to boost diversity at the college my making available grants up to $2,000 to college groups. Of the 34 applications submitted to his office, McQuillen approved 30.

"I am encouraged by the range of proposals," McQuillen said. "This shows what strong elements of the college has when they respond in such an encouraging way."

McQuillen said that the diversity grants are an attempt to build on the success of the academic enrichment program already in place at the college.

"My hope was that this diversity grant program would accomplish the same thing by focusing on adding new opportunities for our students to experience the diversity of the world they will enter after they graduate," he said.

The set of projects is a lesson in diversity itself. The campus organizations – a diverse grouping – developed proposals that reflected their interests and specialties.

At the front of the list of projects are three dealing with the week of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday (Jan. 16-22) and Black History Month in February. Three college organizations, Residence Life & Student Conduct, Student Activities, and Diversity 101, will offer more activities than they did in past years, including documentary films, social events, and a "Stop the Hate" poster campaign. The college will provide a total of $3,700 to the organizations.

"This shows the commitment the college is making to enhance diversity programming across the board," said Pertrina Williams, assistant director of residence life and student conduct. "It's been a wonderful experience and I hope that there will be more grants offered in the future. This helps to create a sense of importance and intentionality in the case of presenting different programs. That’s a great thing."

The Mercyhurst Drama Guild offered a way to mix diversity with the talents of college writers and actors. The guild will put on its Spring Theater Festival, showcasing one-act plays written by students in theater styles from around the world. Students, of course, will perform in the plays. Through this festival, the writers, the performers and the audiences will learn about the diversity of theater from different cultures. The college has made $2,000 available for this project.

The Mercyhurst Green Team, a group of faculty, staff and students dedicated to raising awareness of environmental issues, will use its diversity grant money to demonstrate the impact of varying economic status, values and beliefs, resource consumption levels and the resulting environmental impacts on five widely divergent cultures from around the world. The demonstration will take place at the Earth Day celebration on campus April 22, 2006. The Green Team received a $1,750 grant for this project.

"This project will illustrate the wide disparities in energy and natural resource consumption of various peoples around the world, and the resulting ecological impacts of widely divergent cultures and economic conditions," said Chris Magoc, Ph.D., of the Mercyhurst Green Team. "One interactive exercise will invite the Mercyhurst and Erie communities to reflect on the ecological footprint and ethical dimensions of our own choices as consumers and citizens."

Several of the grant requests will help fund speakers who will lecture at Mercyhurst on a variety of topics, with a diversity theme running through all of them.

From the social work department’s senior class came a proposal to sponsor a prom for mentally disabled students, a group that often is unable to attend proms at their own schools for a number of reasons. When prom time comes this spring, those young people will be able to attend a prom at Mercyhurst in a non-threatening and safe environment, thanks to the social work seniors who will make it happen, and the $775 grant.

And, in an effort to acquaint people with a pop culture phenomenon from Japan, the Mercyhurst Anime Club will receive $1,000 to establish a library of Asian and Japanese anime DVDs and Manga graphic novels that would be accessible to the student body.
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