By Allie Kriese | University Communications
DENVER – CU Denver is no stranger to diversity, yet ethnic students still struggle to combat the stereotypes associated with being unique individuals in professional environments.
Professionals from across the community — including Denver Mayor Michael Hancock; Clarence Law, founder and president, Archipelago Web; Shadana Dickerson, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce; Erin Yoshimura, executive director, Colorado Dragon Boat Festival; Margarita Saenz, MD; and Nicole Singleton — gathered, at the Tivoli on the Auraria Campus April 1, to reassure students of all cultures, colors and identities that their struggles are not impossible to overcome. More than anything, the speakers emphasised the traits that seperate students from one another can become strengths in the professional world.
Keynote speaker Denver County Judge Kerry Hada said he will always pursue knowledge. Growing up picking melons in southwestern Colorado, Hada discovered that his Asian background couldn’t keep him from achieving his dreams, which change every day. “I always ask myself what I want to do when I grow up,” said Hada. “Some say, ‘I won’t ever grow up.'”
Other participants attending the networking event shared similiar experiences of overcoming the obstacles that are tied to their ethnic backgrounds.
Margarita Saenz described a moment early in her career as a pediatric clinical geneticist when a potential employer turned down her application, mentioning that Saenz wouldn’t ‘fit into the working environment.’ Despite this troubling rejection, Saenz used her passion for children to overcome the stereotypes associated with being a Latino professional.
Nicole Singleton, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC), described her ascent into her career in marketing, managing and developing business as a constant effort to sieze opportunities, and to use her ethnicity to stand out from other candidates.
Erin Yoshimura encouraged the audience members to develop their emotional intelligence — an important factor in determining when it is right to embrace background and culture, and when it is right to demonstrate outstanding skills as an individual.
Mayor Hancock addressed the students and faculty attending with an inspiring glimmer of the future of Denver, enlightened by the skills, talents and strengths of the diverse youth being educated downtown. “Living in Denver is an opportunity,” he said. “Denver will be the next great city of the United States because you’re here.”
Following the keynote speach and panel discussion, students and faculty had the opportunity to chat with the speakers, as well as discuss diversity amoung themselves.
Diversity may not be new to the CU Denver community; however, the fact remains that individuals–especially young adults–struggle with their identities every day. Opportunities such as the Diversity Career Networking Event help students challenge themselves, and discover the power of their diversity.