Book club focuses on new diversity outlets

Senior Sally Trnka sees value in giving UW-Eau Claire students and faculty the chance to access and discuss cultural perspectives that aren’t generally addressed in core university classes.

A double major in political science and Spanish, Trnka also is a co-coordinator of Peer Diversity Educators at Eau Claire.

She said people on campus are aware of diversity issues, but don’t get the chance to discuss them in depth unless enrolled in a class designed specifically for that purpose.

“(People) don’t talk about (these issues) in their business classes,” she said.

Because of Trnka and PDE, students and faculty will soon have the opportunity to gain exposure to literature from a different cultural perspective.

PDE has arranged a campus book club that will focus on issues of race and ethnic diversity. The book club is possible through a grant from the UW-System intended specifically for racial and ethnic topics.

The initial idea for the book club stemmed from growing student and faculty curiosity, as well as the availability of the grant, according to Jodi Thesing-Ritter, associate dean of Student Development and Diversity.

“We have a lot of interest on this campus,” she said. “And it was kind of in response to that.”

Trnka organized the book club once the university received the grant. Two 15-member groups will each read two books over the course of the semester, she said.

Members will also meet twice in discussion groups for each book to talk about the content, Thesing-Ritter said. Then the groups will exchange books and repeat the process.

“It will bring people who are interested in learning more or understanding the concepts of diversity together,” Thesing-Ritter said. “People will read the book and come together to share ideas.”

Trnka said the book club offers several benefits to students and staff at Eau Claire. One strong point of the club is that it will offer students and faculty another chance to convene and interact outside of the research setting, she said.

“It’s not often that students get to collaborate on something outside of research,” she said. “It’s a great way for faculty and students to get together.”

Another advantage, Trnka said, is that people will have a means to connect “real” life with academic life at the university.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for people to get together to talk about things that are real, providing a safe place for people to talk about these issues,” she said.

Thesing-Ritter agreed the book club will provide the university with the ability to increase its effectiveness at addressing cultural diversity issues.

“It illustrates to the campus, to prospective students and staff, that we are a campus committed to addressing the tough issue of diversity in a proactive and positive way,” she said.

The goal, Thesing-Ritter said, is to someday have a diverse and inclusive campus environment at Eau Claire.

“Obviously, the book club is a big step in that direction,” she said.