March 27, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 37°F


FYE diversity speaker emphasizes small acts of kindness

Members of The Ithaca College Class of 2017 met at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday in Emerson Suites for a discussion about diversity with Maura Cullen, the First Year Experience diversity speaker. Cullen’s blend of audience participation and personal stories created an open space for dialogue about diversity on campus.

The focus of Cullen’s presentation was the importance of how students treat each other, with an emphasis on small acts of kindness. In her presentation, Cullen said these acts can affect whether or not people stay at the college.

“Never underestimate your act of kindness or your act of cruelty, and what type of impact it can have on others,” Cullen said. “I’m talking about small things that could make the difference between someone staying here at IC and somebody leaving.”

In her discussion of diversity, Cullen used a magic trick in which she combined four multi-colored scarves to serve as a metaphor for noticing differences between people. Cullen pointed out to the audience that the first thing they did was notice the colors of the scarves.

Cullen said people can’t help making observations about one another, but that is not the problem.

“Noticing is never the problem,” Cullen said. “It’s what you do once you notice that we need to be mindful of.”

Cullen was able to convey her message to students by using interesting examples and her own experiences. Freshman Alexa Salvato said Cullen was both entertaining and interesting.

“She had good energy and an extensive use of metaphors,” Salvato said.

The presentation was held twice to ensure that all first-year students would be able to attend. All first-year students were required to attend either with their residence halls or freshmen seminars.

Freshman John Jacobson said he sees why the presentation was helpful to his class.

“I’ve seen a lot of public speakers, but I can say that this had an impact on the audience,” Jacobson said.

Cullen ended the workshop by reiterating the impact students can have on each other and asking the class to think about their actions.

“It’s the decisions you make that not only determine your destiny, but the impact and destiny of others,” she said. “Please, choose wisely.”