Welcoming messages going up around campus

by Mackenzie Adams and Jeanne Baron
| WMU News

Welcome boards can be found near the entrance to WMU’s libraries.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—"Be proud," "Mi casa es su casa" and "You belong here" are just some of the messages people have been posting on select bulletin boards around Western Michigan University's campus for their fellow Broncos to see.

The messages are part of an initiative University Libraries kicked off Feb. 27 that encourages students, faculty and staff to leave welcoming Post-it notes for members of WMU's diverse community.

"I think we all benefit from having a very diverse campus community," says Michele Behr, a professor of University Libraries and a librarian at WMU’s Swain Education Library. "We learn so much from each other and each other's experiences."

Behr adds that it makes sense for the University’s four libraries to be involved in a welcoming effort.

"If anyone feels threatened or unsafe or marginalized," she says, "the library is a place where they can find a comfortable and welcoming environment, staffed by helpful and accepting people."

Behind the initiative

The initiative arose from welcoming efforts discussed during a town hall meeting held Feb. 22 by WMU’s Haenicke Institute for Global Education. The town hall created a space for open dialogue between WMU students as well as employees and the Kalamazoo community about what can be done to make sure everyone feels safe and welcome.

Those attending the event participated in an interactive brainstorming session to discuss joining current welcome efforts and finding new ways to be welcoming in the wake of the divisive 2016 election campaign and President Donald Trump’s executive orders in January related to immigration and undocumented workers.

WMU President John M. Dunn was on hand for the town hall and commented on a statement he made to the campus community Jan. 30 about Trump’s immigration-related executive order. That statement said in part, "In the coming days, weeks and months, I am asking you to join me in taking every proactive step possible to reach all international students, particularly those from the nations outlined in the executive order, to let them know that we as a university community welcome and support them."

During the town hall, Dunn echoed that as well as other previous comments.

"If we do not agree with where we are at the top in our country, then we need to lead from the bottom," he told the assembled crowd. "We need to come together in settings like this to reaffirm who we are and what we are as a university and a community."

The message boards

“Thank you!,” one of the messages reads, “We enjoy it here as internationals.”

The welcoming Post-it initiative is an ongoing activity. Welcoming message boards can be found near each entrance to WMU's four libraries: Waldo Library, Maybee Music and Dance Library, Swain Education Library and Zhang Legacy Collections Center.

"I like the idea of seeing the support from the community and that people are taking the time out of their days to write welcoming messages for us here," says Joshua Lim, an international student from Malaysia and a sales and business marketing major.

"There is a lot going on in the U.S. with immigration, and I know a lot of my international friends are worried. So it's good to see all of the support that WMU is providing for us."

For more information about welcoming efforts on campus and in the community, visit wmich.edu/global/welcomeatwestern

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.