O-Week diversity speaker encourages students to expand their comfort zone

New Rice students were challenged to embrace diversity by expanding their comfort zones during the annual Diversity Presentation held at Tudor Fieldhouse Aug. 20.

Kyle Clark addresses the crowd of new students at the 2013 O-Week Diversity Presentation.

“You all are the next great class to come through this fantastic university with a rich history,” said Kyle Clark, associate director of new student services at the University of Texas at Austin and the event’s featured speaker. “And there’s something special about each of you. Not only did you make the decision to come here, the university said, ‘We want you to be here,’ because there’s something special about you.”

Clark talked about the important role diversity plays in reaching one’s ultimate potential, and he encouraged all of the students to embrace their differences and learn from each other.

He said that the upcoming four-years are the time and place for students to experience everything they can. “Your interests may change; what you’re passionate about may change,” he said. “That is what is so fantastic about choosing to go to college. … You’re really in this space where you get to explore and stretch and reach and learn, and at the same time you also get to teach and experience things with other folks, and diversity is such an important part of that.”

Clark said that being open-minded is not about students blending all of their cultures together to become one, but rather being open to their differences.

“By expanding your comfort zone, you can still feel safe and familiar in your surroundings and elevate your opportunities to learn,” Clark said. “With this great opportunity that you all have comes a great responsibility to learn more about yourself and other people.”

The diversity presentation and follow-up workshops for Rice’s 11 residential colleges are part of O-Week activities each year. Andrea Pinto, one of the diversity coordinators for O-Week, said that the focus on diversity is important since there are so many students with different backgrounds coming together in one community.

“We talk about keeping Rice a happy, safe and respectful environment, and in order to do that you have to recognize and understand that you’re not going to agree with everyone you talk to,” Pinto said. “You can have productive discussions and talk about your differences in a healthy way.”

Leah Cabrera-Marquez, another O-Week diversity coordinator, agreed. “We have people who come to Rice from all over the world, and this can be a new and overwhelming experience for them,” she said. “We hope that the diversity discussions will open a dialogue and allow people to get to know each other on a different level than they do in their colleges. And we hope the conversations about diversity will continue long beyond O-Week.”

About Amy Hodges

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.