“Our Stories, Our Communities: UO Diversity” is a continuing online exhibit that honors and affirms the strengths and the challenges of members of the multicultural University of Oregon community.
Yvette Alex-Assensoh, vice president for equity and inclusion, and Mickey Stellavato, a UO photographer and oral historian, initiated the project, which includes portraits of students, alumni, staff, and faculty members with personal statements about their experiences. The photos for this excerpt of the exhibit are of current students and recent graduates.
To see the full gallery, visit the Division of Equity and Inclusion’s website and Facebook page. New portraits will be posted throughout the year.
—Tova Stabin, University Communications
PhD student chemistry and biochemistry
Home: Pontiac, Michigan
“The biggest challenge is always connecting my opportunities back to people who come from communities like the one I came from. I didn’t grow up in a nice place. I have plenty of friends who lost their lives to prison or violence at relatively young ages. The good people around me, including my parents, wanted something better for me. Hopefully, my life will give those who are struggling hope. When my life’s over, I want young kids to say, ‘Brantly did it, so I can do it, too!’”
Junior general social sciences
“As a disabled student, I’ve found the UO to be extremely accommodating, but I had a hard time at the start of spring when the disability access shuttle was down to just one bus. My brain injury has given me sensory input overload and the buses made me carsick on the bumpy roads. I let the school know the disability shuttle needed to be more accommodating, and the mention helped it to be altered. It’s a good start even though a permanent van should be bought. I’ll keep raising awareness until we get one.”
Perla Alvarez Lucia
BA ’17 ethnic studies
Minors: Spanish, planning, public policy and management
Home: Born in Mexico, settled in Oregon
“My community at the UO supports me and we have fun together . . . we do not take education for granted because we acknowledge that our ancestors have struggled for us to have the right to be here . . . I have faced the challenge of being the only person of color in the classroom and feeling isolated. It has happened to me in at least one class every term. I have overcome this by creating community outside of classes . . . in the Multicultural Center, the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence, and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán.”
Bethany Grace Howe
PhD student media studies
“My community at the UO is the School of Journalism and Communication; it’s been my community as long as I’ve identified as transgender. It’s a collection of people who are very much alike and different. We are different in that we come from different places and have different backgrounds, experiences, and, therefore, solutions to the problems and issues that lie in front of us. We are alike in that we’re all committed to a free and open press as a place for people to express and take in ideas. For me, personally, this is critical; I cannot imagine a more warm and welcoming place in which to come out and grow as a transgender woman.”
BA ’17 sociology
Minors: Native American studies, nonprofit administration
Home: Wind River Indian Reservation, Ethete, Wyoming
“Since I’ve been at the UO I’ve been challenged financially, emotionally, mentally, and academically. One of the hardest things about being here is being away from home and family. I’ve overcome challenges by staying connected to the Native community in Eugene, going to campus events, and visiting family when I can.”'
MS ’13, PHD ’16 counseling psychology
“Although the people in my community have fluctuated, they all share a passion for social justice, a desire for deeper dialogues, and an openness for genuine and authentic relationships . . . As a woman of color in academia, I have experienced my share of racism and sexism. I have been told subtly and directly that I do not belong here. I have been able to make it . . . because of mentors, colleagues, and friends who have supported me and cheered me on when I doubted that I could go on, and when I failed and could not get back up. It takes a rebellious, defiant, and courageous spirit to overcome these challenges.”