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SDSU’s Dr. Kitchen embraces diversity at Dialogue on Diversity Summit

Keeping an open mind to new experiences while embracing and supporting cultural diversity on college campuses was the energetic message that Dr. James R. Kitchen, Vice President of Student Affairs at San Diego State University, shared with college students during his keynote speech Saturday.

“Diversity is something that we can never talk enough about,” Kitchen said. “On our campus especially we consider ourselves a diverse population a diverse campus … but yet we have so much to do and so much work that has to be done.”

With an upbeat and inspirational tone, Kitchen addressed how diversity can affect both students and faculty members on college campuses. His quips during his 25-minute speech entertained the audience, while still conveying his opinion on why focusing on diversity is important for colleges.

Kitchen spoke to a crowd of approximately 25 students and faculty members from SDSU, Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College on Nov. 3 at 9:30 a.m. during the Dialogue on Diversity Summit at SDSU’s Scripps Cottage.

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In Kitchen’s opinion, the concept of diversity is ever-changing and it is up to students and faculty members on college campuses to foster and support these ideological changes. He urged the audience to appreciate diversity in all of its forms not just in terms of racial or ethnic differences.

“It used to be that everybody looked at diversity as being either black or white, and when I went to Minnesota at St. Cloud University, that’s what it was like,” Kitchen said. “It didn’t take very long to realize that it included all areas of higher education. It doesn’t matter whether you are black, you’re white, you’re Latino, Pacific Islander, you have a disability, your sexual orientation is different – it’s all across everything.”

Organized by the Office of Intercultural Relations, the purpose of the Dialogue on Diversity Summit was to raise awareness to social issues that students face on campus. Students and peer diversity educators acted as panelists during workshop sessions, where students engaged in conversation about various problems that they faced at school.

“Be comfortable with maybe sharing something with someone else that you might not have shared before, so that they can get to know you beyond the face,” said Dr. Tanis Starck, the Director of the Office of Intercultural Relations.

“This is your time to have dialogue on issues that affect you – specifically with dealing with diversity issues.”

The workshops included discussions on how it is to be a female student of color attending a primarily Caucasian campus, the survival of ethnic-based Greek organizations, how deaf students communicate with other students and the ways that minority students cope with being outnumbered by their peers.

Kitchen has previously been an administrative staff member at both St. Cloud University in Minnesota and the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, and also held positions as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the University of Kansas. Before entering into his current career path in higher education, Kitchen was in the U.S. Army and served as a combat soldier during the Vietnam War, through which he earned a Purple Heart.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. James R. Kitchen speaks at the Dialogue on Diversity Summit at San Diego State University on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. Kitchen discusses the need for students and faculty to embrace diversity in order for progress to occur on college campuses. Photo Credit: Lauren J. Mapp, Editor-in-Chief

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