Have you ever heard someone speak who inspired you to turn your ideas into actions?
That is exactly what happened to Daniel Lopez when he attended the presentation “Breaking Chains: Gangs to Graduation” by Dr. Paul Hernandez in fall semester. Hernandez, a former youth-at-risk who grew up on the streets of Los Angeles engulfed in poverty and gang culture, presented to an audience of 800 students and community members as part of the WMU Real Talk Diversity Series.
Lopez was inspired by Hernandez’s message that day and by Hernandez’s book, “The Pedagogy of Real Talk: Engaging, Teaching and Connecting With Students at Risk,” and began reflecting on his own WMU experience, thinking about how he might address issues of diversity and educational gaps that he saw or experienced as an at-risk student.
He kept coming back to the idea that students needed a forum in which to discuss the issues that face at-risk students and to connect socially with diverse student populations. “I wanted to establish a group to help students connect and communicate with others who have unique perspectives and to create bigger and better ideas for the future of our group members and the college,” says Lopez.
When beginning the group, Lopez turned to Christine Robinson, assistant director of academic advising and co-coordinator of the Paul Hernandez series of events. Robinson supported Lopez’s efforts and now serves as the staff advisor for the newly formed Intercultural Business Student Association, led by President Daniel Lopez, Vice President Juan Carlos Pastor, Finance Director Walter Edward Moran, Human Resources Director Tinashe Chaponda, Marketing Director Kenady Sykora and Communications Director Kelly Betz.
According to Lopez, IBSA will work at breaking down silos between ethnic groups; offer professional development opportunities for students; engage in brainstorming and action plans of ways to support an inclusive environment for all students; sponsor events that explore intercultural understanding and cultural competency; and be a leading student organization in community engagement. The new student organization is open to all students interested in its mission and will be collaborating with the existing Global Business Students Association, which has similar objectives in relation to international students.
Hernandez, Robinson and Lopez presented on the impact of the WMU Breaking Chains events at the Oakland Student Success Conference in Troy, Michigan, on February 11.