As part of the national I Am An Immigrant campaign, Bryant recently joined more than 160 schools around the country in celebrating America’s shared diversity. In two panels held in October and November, Bryant students representing nearly a dozen countries of origin shared their stories and perspectives – and their advice on building a stronger, more global community.
“Through these panels, the students were able to highlight their experiences, educate others about their heritage, and generate a positive discussion about how our campus can better support diversity and inclusion, which enriches the Bryant community, and beyond,” noted panel moderator Emily Nunez ’20, a Politics and Law major.
Building a better world
Organized by Nunez and Senior Lecturer of Modern Language Patricia Gomez, the I Am An Immigrant panels were sponsored by the University’s Department of Modern Language, the Global Studies and International Business programs, and the PwC Center for Diversity and Inclusion. The students spoke about their own journeys to America, the discrimination they’ve faced, the rewards of an international education, and how they’ve come to call Bryant their home.
“Together, our differences make us strong – they make us strong, beautiful, and a world community.”
“Bryant strives to build a learning environment that welcomes everyone, and is devoted to creating an inclusive workplace,” says Bryant’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer Glenn Sulmasy, JD, LL.M, who notes that Bryant’s students hail from more than 40 different countries. “Events like I Am An Immigrant help us to appreciate how our different cultures and ethnicities make us stronger and significantly enhance our students’ academic experience.”
The panelists discussed how their identity had been shaped by living in more than one country, and how that experience has benefited them. “For me, the word immigrant means that you're a person who is going to a different country to provide a better life for yourself and to look for better opportunities,” noted Ramon Luis Fille ’22, who emigrated from the Philippines nearly a decade ago. “And I still use it to describe myself because, even though I'm now a US citizen, I still use it as a way to tell people that I came from a different country and I'm proud of my culture. And I'm proud to say that I'm here to make a better life for myself and for my family, as well as a better future.”
“Strong, beautiful and a world community”
The students also shared some challenges they’ve encountered, from adapting to a different culture to facing discrimination. Nidhi Murli ’21 recalled a time she and her friends were pulled over by a police officer while driving. “He looked at all of us and he said that no one was American. No one was white,” she remembers. “That was the day I realized that no matter what, some will always see us as different from everybody else, just because we're international.”
“Be aware of who you are, and who the people around you are. Try to get to know them, and try to understand them."
Benjamin Aryeh ‘22, who was born in Ghana, suggested that in the face of such challenges it was more important than ever to have an open heart. “Together, our differences make us strong – they make us strong, beautiful, and a world community. Even in the face of intolerance and violence we must not forget to spread the word about the importance of diversity, and to respond to violence with love and a celebration of our difference.”
"No matter where you live, go to school or work, diversity is vital,” says Gomez. “The most successful companies and communities are the ones that embrace voices from all over the world, and a panel like this is a great way to hear from some of those voices."
The panel also took questions from the audience about how Bryant can grow as an international community. “Be conscious of your surroundings,” urged Carlos Morales ’20. “Be aware of who you are, and who the people around you are. Try to get to know them, and try to understand them. We are all very unique individuals, and we can all learn from and appreciate one another.”
"When we bring our ideas and perspectives together we can change our perceptions. We can change our thinking. We can change our families. And we can change this country.”
Deniz Adıgüzel ’22, who was born in Turkey, pointed to Bryant groups like the Multicultural Student Organization and International Student Organization as important resources for the entire campus. “We want you to learn about our cultures and we want to learn about your culture, too,” she said. “I think that's one of our main goals: to bring further understanding and acceptance of all cultures."
That openness should also extend to personal interactions with others as well, says Adıgüzel. “I have shown my roommates where I live on the map,” she laughed. “I think that's important. You should know where your roommate is from, where she lives when she’s not on campus.”
By working together, suggested Aryeh, anything can be accomplished. “Diversity is something we should all strive for. Bringing people together from various background, with different life expectations or experiences, generates ideas and perspectives,” he said. “When we bring our ideas and perspectives together we can change our perceptions. We can change our thinking. We can change our families. And we can change this country.”