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May 24, 2001

UW-RF Students Win Multicultural Competition Award

Three UW-River Falls students took honors for their entries in competition at the 18th Annual American Multicultural Leadership Conference held recently at UW-Whitewater. Of the 125 presentations accepted at the conference, 12 were from UW-RF. Of the 18 awards given, UW-RF students won three.

Vanessa Ramos, a freshman English education major from Cottage Grove, Minn., won first place in the creative writing competition and a $3,500 scholarship. Ramosą non-fiction entry "Daughters of Eva" is a biographical sketch of her grandmother, created by combining memories of her childhood with her recollections as an adult. She integrated Spanish and cultural references in hopes of creating a portrait of her grandmother in the context of a place and culture very different from that of America.

Computer science major Chou Yang, a junior from St. Paul, won second place in the visual arts competition and a $3,000 scholarship. His moving charcoal drawing "Behind the Wires" depicts a life experience in a refugee camp. An elderly Hmong lady is witnessing the departure of loved ones, and experiencing the pain of being left behind. She reaches through the barbed wire, attempting to hold on to the last sight of them. Her life is now filled with darkness.

Jacquelynne Whitner, a graduate student from Minneapolis majoring in psychology and counseling, won second place for her research project and a $3,000 scholarship.

In her project, "An Era of Identity Crisis for Multiracial Youth," Whitner considers the more than 100,000 multiracial babies who are born annually in the United States and the importance of society respecting and appreciating their merged differences. She concludes that through understanding and respect, the children will develop a positive self-concept and succeed in school.

The AMSLC conference is hosted at a different campus in the 26-campus University of Wisconsin System each year. UW-RF hosted the conference in 1991 and again in 1995. This year 600 students attended the conference April 27-29.

The conference provides an opportunity for students of color from across the state to get together to share school activities and to network informally. Keynote speakers over the three-day period addressed topics of specific interest to the students, and caucuses provided a chance for students to discuss issues and concerns, and share their insights.

According to Linda Alvarez, multi-cultural student services coordinator at UW-RF, students of color, under the categories used by the UW System, include African-American, Latino-American, Southeast Asian, Asian, Native American and bi-racial. There is also a Caucasian category, and an international category for international students, such as East Indians or Scandinavians.

Said Alvarez, "The term Śstudent of colorą is preferred over Śminority,ą because minority implies Śless than.ą Also, people of color arenąt a minor number anymore."

The Johnson Family Business Enterprises, including Johnson Wax Professional, SC Johnson and Johnson Bank, provided scholarships and funding for the conference.

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