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New Multicultural Director Shares Vision

Nashia Whittenburg asks the campus community to work with her to enhance NC State’s multicultural programs. Photo by Marc Hall.

Less than one month into her new job as director of Multicultural Student Affairs, Nashia Whittenburg already has big ideas.

She has proposed a new living and learning village for women of color on campus. She would like to start a celebration of Gaelic heritage in March. She wants to implement programs to retain Latina and African-American students.

“There’s so much opportunity” to advance multiculturalism at NC State, says Whittenburg, who became director July 10. “That’s the reason why I’m very excited about the position, about being here. It’s just an exciting time. You can feel it in the air.”

It Takes a Village

The Multicultural Student Affairs office looks for ways to educate about and represent various cultures within the student body. It also tries to retain underrepresented students and help them graduate. Students who don’t feel comfortable on campus are more likely to leave, Whittenburg says, so it’s important for NC State to show them support. Her idea for a new living and learning village works toward that goal.

Currently there are 16 villages, such as the Black Male Initiative and Women of Welch, that cater to students with special interests or of particular demographics. Whittenburg plans to submit a proposal to housing by next February to see if a village specifically for women of color is feasible for 2018. She envisions a space where students can be comfortable, share experiences and help one another.

“The point and purpose is if you are a Latina and you are an engineering major, with a very specific specialization, you may not ever see anybody who looks like you,” Whittenburg says. “But when you come home, here is your opportunity to get some support and to deal with some of the microaggressions you might have had to deal with throughout your entire day when you’ve been at class.”

Whittenburg also has short-term goals, such as planning to welcome students back to campus later this month. MSA staff will be in as many places as possible to greet as many students as they can. The director will be at the Symposium for Multicultural Scholars that begins Aug. 9 to discuss multiculturalism on campus. Topics this year include race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity and sexuality. Attendees will also discuss mental health, the importance of community and ways to create a supportive environment.

Representation According to Need

Whittenburg also wants to institute two national programs to help retain students: Student African American Sisterhood and Mana, an organization that represents Latinas. It’s a move in line with her office’s emphasis on African-American, Latino and Native American students. However, Whittenburg wants to expand MSA’s role beyond that.

“People have a certain linear mindset, and they automatically check themselves out because maybe the office didn’t historically relate to that particular culture or ethnicity. That’s going to be something that I’m passionate about changing,” she says.

Whittenburg intends to keep MSA’s old programs, such as Latino Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month, and implement new ones. A celebration of Gaelic cultures was a no-brainer considering where she used to work – Savannah, Georgia, home to one of the largest Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the world.

Representation “goes as far as what student needs are,” Whittenburg says. If there is demand for a program, she will try to create one, and make sure it is meaningful. Latino Heritage Month, for example, is more than just a celebration of that culture; it honors the culture’s impact on American and global society.

“It’s not just programming for the sake of having a program,” Whittenburg says. “What is the point and purpose of meeting the cultural needs of our students? Are we creating a sense of inclusion for our underrepresented students and the opportunity for non-underrepresented students to understand that?”

‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’

The nature of her work means Whittenburg engages with other offices around campus, such as the GLBT Center. The latter put her in touch with a poet/artist for Native American Heritage Month. It is “an absolutely amazing opportunity to collaborate,” she says.

She is also working with diversity coordinators in individual colleges and hopes to include them more in next year’s multicultural symposium for students. There are plenty of opportunities for colleges to support multiculturalism, she says, such as taking diversity into account when hiring or developing curricula.

Whittenburg encourages faculty and staff to contribute ideas for representation. They have expertise she lacks, and she’s keen to take advantage of that. “Get in, roll up your sleeves, get ready to do the work,” she says.

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  1. Unbelievable! College should be a place where students are challenged by every possible idea, theory, concept, standard, personality, intellect, race/ethnicity, and OPPORTUNITY. Hiding in a dorm full of “perfect peers” greatly diminishes this overall experience- much of which can only occur OUTSIDE of class. Honestly, I feel sad for these coddled students of today, but glad not to be faced with hiring them for an engineering business. This stuff is NOT a recipe for anything but narrow-mindedness.

  2. This makes me sad as an alum. By this standard we should have a white men only dorm so that we can mitigate micro-aggressions we experience at the hands of minorities. As a chemist major, believe me there were not many white men. So much for preparing students for life in a multicultural working environment! This is the logic of the left. If campus doesn’t pull back my support of State will.

  3. nothing racist about slicing & dicing by SKIN COLOR…we get it liberals…you’re obsessed with gender & skin color…fkn jackasses

  4. I just have one question. How does this promote learning about different cultures for EVERYONE? If you live with your own race all the time, you’re never going to branch out and make friends with different cultures. As a student of NC State currently, I don’t understand why everyone feels that there’s a need to give people race-based housing. Theres a reason we have WELCH and such. That’s where you meet other women who are of the same race as you in the same field. If you don’t, then you learn to make friends elsewhere on campus. THAT’S the point of going to a large school with a lot of activities. This is allowing people to stay in their comfort zones and never be pushed to face things they will have to deal with in the future, this is great on paper, but so was socialism.

  5. Segregation? Separate but equal? Do you expect your graduates to live and work in a segregated world? What happens when your poor little babies go out in to big, bad world where they are very much a minority and the university is not there to protect them from being out in the real world?

    I’m not sure what is more stupid. NCSU having an Multicultural Director: NCSU having a Multicultural Director who comes up with such a stupid, regressive idea; or that NCSU publishes this as something positive. I’m embarrassed that my alma mater is throwing years of progress into the toilet and going for this absolute stupidity. Students at NCSU can go a learn nothing.

    A total embarrassment. Time to clean house at many levels.

  6. Finally separate but equal! So progressive! Perhaps the dorms will end up looking similar to the great successful nation of Liberia.

    1. If you think this is so progressive, how do you suggest the students that live in these dorms go about making friends with people outside of their dorm that aren’t “of color.” I know from experience that your dorm becomes your family, and outside of that friend group, you very seldom venture out. So much for diversity, it sounds more like wanting to create racial “clicks” among various groups. It’s sad honestly that people think there’s something wrong with living the same dorm as a white person and that everyone has become so narrow minded as to believe that ALL white people are somehow racist? That’s just absurd.

  7. I don’t think people realize how much of an impact housing has on the success rate of POC students. These students are in classes to learn but often feel ostracized when other students purposely leave them out of groups and professors don’t take their opinions/answers seriously. And no, I’m not whining about it, but it does take a toll on you when you constantly experience this.
    When you are able to go home and have that community that can relate to your experiences, it can do wonders for one’s self esteem. And lets not pretend NC State is the mecca of inclusion (i.e. look at the free expression tunnel when major events happen). I wish this community was around when I attended because I experienced housing directors who couldn’t grasp the concept that some (not all) students are not very welcoming to students of color.

  8. “The point and purpose is if you are a Latina and you are an engineering major, with a very specific specialization, you may not ever see anybody who looks like you,” Whittenburg says. “But when you come home, here is your opportunity to get some support and to deal with some of the microaggressions you might have had to deal with throughout your entire day when you’ve been at class.”

    Man, I sure wish I could have had a safe space coming back to after attending CompSci courses with 90% East Asian students. Oh wait, no I don’t. Because I’m adult who can handle the real world with all the “microaggressions” of diversity.

    The logic is flawless. We want more diversity, but let’s just exclude groups from another because homogenizing them is too scary.

    I thought NC State, Engineering especially, was supposed to train students for the work force. This is anything but. Looks like it’s time to withdraw my yearly alumni donations.

  9. Segregating black women into their own dorm is now considered “progress?” Maybe we’ll have black only dining rooms and black only drinking fountains soon. I thought this is what the Freedom Riders fought against in the 60’s, maybe I’m wrong.