Expo projects reveal diversity in Eau Claire community

Sophomore Teresa Arnold and her group spent weeks gathering more than two hours of footage to edit into a 10-minute video on deafness. But she can sum it up in one quote from the film – “In order to get language, you have to give language.”

Arnold’s group, along with the rest of their Social Foundations of Human Relations (Foundations of Education 385) class, will show their 10-minute video at the 18th Bi-annual Human Diversity Expo from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the Council Fire Room in Davies Center.

Students taking Ethnic-sensitive Social Work Practice will present posters from similar projects at the expo. In all, about 140 students will participate. The expo is free and open to the public.

The purpose of the expo projects, assistant professor of social work La Vonne Cornell-Swanson said, was for students to seek out subjects from backgrounds in which they had little experience, such as Ojibwa Indians, Hmong people in Eau Claire or Somalian immigrants settling in Barron.

She said the projects give her students experience in working with diverse populations and with presenting their findings in a culturally sensitive way – which will help them in graduate school and in their careers.

Arnold, an education student, said her group chose deafness as a topic for a number of reasons. One group member has a deaf mother, and Arnold said she wanted to prepare herself to work with deaf people in school.

“The goal of our project was to just bring about awareness of the deaf culture because it’s not something we see or hear a lot about,” she said.

Assistant professor of foundations of education Cynthia Gray said she first held the diversity expo with one of her FED 385 classes. It kept expanding, and another assistant foundations of education professor, Jill Pinkney Pastrana, soon brought in her classes as well. Cornell-Swanson, who said it’s a great way for the two departments to collaborate, joined the expo in 2002.

In preparation for the project, the education students learned about movie-making and editing in class, with help from Bringing Instruction in Technology to Students, Gray said.

Junior Courtney Doyel said her group’s mini-documentary focuses on assistant professor of music Ethan Wickman, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She said a pivotal moment in the video came after an interview with one of Wickman’s students who didn’t know he was a Mormon.

“In the video, when we asked her what her reaction was . she said that she was surprised that your religion doesn’t define you,” she said.

Doyel said she and her group learned so much from the project that they may shoot some more footage and make a longer version. They want to use it in a study of their classmates to see if it affects their pre-conceived notions of Mormonism.

Arnold also said she learned a lot from making the deafness documentary. Her group’s project followed a deaf woman who entered the hearing world after getting a cochlear implant. Before the project, Arnold said, she didn’t even know what a cochlear implant was.

Gray said other videos and posters dealt with topics such as the Amish community and the effect of socioeconomic status on high school cliques. The Eau Claire area may not have much ethnic diversity, she said, but there are plenty of other forms of diversity.

Arnold agreed. “There’s diversity among us whether we realize it or not,” she said. “It’s everywhere.”