Social work junior Traquana Smith said as a black woman on campus, it is really hard for her to have conversations with people about diversity, but she joined Longhorns for a Culturally Competent Campus, LC3, to try and change that.
The LC3 program was created by University Housing and Dining, UHD, to help students in residence halls feel comfortable and embrace others of different backgrounds when living in close quarters.
“It makes me feel grateful that I choose to come to this University because the model here is ‘What starts here changes the world,’ and Housing and Dining is doing that,” Smith said. “They’re showing students that is possible.”
The program was started last spring by Mylon Kirksy, director of residence life for UHD. LC3 is on its third semester since it started and includes ten classes and two retreats — one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end. Up to 30 students can participate in each.
The program uses a system called intercultural development inventory, which measures mindsets around issues of difference and culture based on participant responses.
“Going to a mindset of judging difference to an acceptance mindset in 10 weeks is amazing,” Kirksy said. “As a director of residence life, it makes sense for me to be worried about how students in the residence hall are being educated and developed.”
Aaron Voyles, director of residence hall operations for UHD, said the tools students take away from LC3 will not only help them during their college education but will also be carried with them after they graduate.
“Students are going to be able to have the tools and go out into the world and have those interactions, be successful, be confident and have the knowledge that they can be successful, culturally competent and make a difference,” Voyles said.
Kirksy said in the past two semesters, they have measured a tremendous change with students from the start of the program to the end of the program.
“I am very proud of the students who have stepped up and said, ‘You know, despite my best thought about myself, I still think I can be better,’ and are willing to explore how they can be and then do the work,” Kirksy said.
Smith said she thinks the University still has a long way to go when it comes to diversity. However, she said she’s confident change will come, especially in herself, because of LC3.
“At UT, I think it is really important because we forget we are on a campus with 50,000 diverse students, even though it might not always feel like it as a minority,” Smith said. “LC3 just gives you the space where you can have these diverse groups of people and conversations.”
Voyles said watching students develop confidence and skills over the 10-week period amazes him, and he has become more open-minded as a professional.
“I think, for a rapidly changing world, there’s not a more important change than to understand and adapt, and that’s why I like this type of work,” Voyles said.