As a group new to campus, the Diversity Education Exploration Project (D.E.E.P.), has accomplished many of their goals, one of which involves embarking on a four-city tour of the United States over Spring Break.
D.E.E.P. originated as a group of underrepresented students who were interested in traveling around the United States with a purpose to gain a deeper understanding of diverse cultures.
The group was officially recognized this past January, but they have been working together since October.
“The mission of D.E.E.P. revolves around three core values of cultural awareness, higher education, and service learning,” First-year student and D.E.E.P. Co-chair Samantha Vang said.
To explore the core values of their mission, D.E.E.P. will take an exploratory Spring Break trip to St. Louis, MO; Memphis, TN; New Orleans, LA; and Kansas City, MO from March 29 to April 6. Over the course of the trip, 18 students and three faculty advisors will participate in events and activities that address the three core values.
“On the Spring Break trip, we will look at higher education institutions and post-graduate opportunities, as well as explore elements of culture. The [cultural] theme of the trip will be African American music in the United States,” First-year student and D.E.E.P. Secretary Awushie Fayose said.
“We are spending time around the communities that are at the heart of African American music, particularly jazz. Our focus is on how it influenced other genres of music, as well as its functions in Southern society beyond entertainment,” Vang said.
“The aim is to go out and explore diversity. Diversity is not just faces and races, but [it includes] diversity in thought,” Fayose said.
In addition to heightening their cultural awareness, the group will visit graduate institutions and opportunities in the cities for furthering education after college. The group intends to make an extended visit to New Orleans over Spring Break to work with the Second Harvest Food Bank of greater New Orleans and Acadiana, an organization that seeks to distribute food to those in need. While the original center was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, the food bank and volunteers recovered. By September 2005, they had become the world’s largest food bank.
After the Spring Break trip, members of D.E.E.P. hope to bring their experiences back home and apply it to bringing awareness to campus on the epidemic of child hunger.
“We are working with another student organization to bring a documentary called No Place At The Table to raise awareness about hunger in which people don’t often know what real hunger is. We hope to get a representative from the Soup Kitchen in St. Peter to talk more about their organization and what they do. We also plan on hosting a charity dinner to keep on fighting childhood hunger towards the end of the calendar year,” First-year D.E.E.P. Treasuruer Kenlong Tran said.
While this year’s focus will be on African American music and child hunger, the theme and focus of cultural awareness and the service learning project will differ from year to year to accommodate the needs of the group and what they feel is most important to the community.
To help fundraise for D.E.E.P.’s first Spring Break trip, a silent auction will take place on March 14-15 in the Carlson Jackson Campus Center where faculty and students will able to bid from 12 p.m. on Thursday to 4 p.m. on Friday. Members of D.E.E.P. will be tabling for the silent auction outside the Diversity Center and upstairs near the Evelyn Young Dining Hall.
“We’ve gotten really cool donations from students, faculty, and businesses in St. Peter and Mankato,” Vang said.
“We are really encouraging people to participate. We are excited that [D.E.E.P.] has taken off, and we’re also excited to make a significant difference on campus,” Fayose said.
For a relatively new group on campus, D.E.E.P. has accomplished much.
“From our first conversations in the fall to this point, students have responded with the vigor and zeal that should make Gustavus proud. [Co-chairs]Samantha Vang and Gaokhue Xiong have given extraordinary leadership and I am proud of D.E.E.P.’s persistence to make dreams reality. I know students have the ability to contribute greatly to our community when the community believes in them. Luckily for D.E.E.P., Gustavus believes and that is a good feeling,” Assisant Director of Multicultural Programs Glen Lloyd said.