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Speaker urges Wilson students to embrace diversity

February 25, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Saying that the Wilson College Black Student Union is "a beacon to this campus," Simona Hill encouraged the Wilson community to talk openly about transformation and diversity.

"Wilson is at a critical juncture in your history," said Hill, a scholar-activist. "You can make a decision for diversity, consistent with your strategic plans. You have an ethical responsibility to prepare students for a diverse world."

Hill visited Wilson College to take part in the institution's two-day "Colors of Wilson" Black History month event. Her lecture Thursday evening, "Transforming History: Diversity and the Wilson College D.I.V.A.," encouraged Wilson students to develop their D.I.V.A.-hood. While D.I.V.A. stands for Developing an Integrative Vision within the Academy, Hill related the concept to the traditional meaning of diva: a distinguished singer of opera, broadening the term to mean "someone who reaches down deep and shares part of her soul with the audience.

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"Becoming a diva takes time, patience and energy. A diva never settles for anything less than her personal best," Hill said. "If you are this good to be at Wilson, then do something. Believe you can change the world by having lived in it. A diva is unconventional in a positive way. Transform where you are and bring people with you."

She encouraged the Wilson community to establish an Office of Multicultural Affairs, "even if it's a closet. This is a very positive way of making a difference."

"When was the last time you had a conversation about race, gender, class or other differences?" she asked. "A deep discussion will reveal who you are and help us to be better human beings. Your Wilson education is not complete until you've had at least one of those conversations.

"What difference does your presence make here at Wilson?" she challenged the students.

Kati Huber, a senior from Lancaster, Pa., said that she would like to think that her presence "will instill a sense of kinship and acceptance."

Chaurice Capps, a junior from Philadelphia who is vice president of the Black Student Union, said her presence on campus is "preparing me for my next step."

Hill is an associate professor of sociology and honors program co-director at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. She serves as vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Women's Studies Association and is a certified professional sociological practitioner. She earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1989, the first African-American woman to do so since 1937.

Lisa Woolley, associate professor of English and advisor to the Black Student Union, said many people make efforts toward diversity, "but it doesn't become part of the fabric of the campus."

Huber said that having Hill on campus is "such an extreme inspiration; the charge she's giving to Wilson is a real benefit. Our strategic planning seems to be lacking a sense of diversity. I feel like I need to be doing my job better."

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