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TedxDU speakers encourage heritage affirmation

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Seven speakers called for students to accept others, embrace their heritage and reject stereotypes at the TEDxDU Salon last Friday in Craig Hall.

Approximately 150 people attended the event, which coincided with the 11th annual Diversity Summit. Five presenters from the DU community spoke, and two additional speakers spoke via videos. The videos were streamed to Joy Burns Tuscan Ballroom and classrooms in the Fritz Knoebel School for Hospitality Management.

Gregory Anderson, dean of Morgridge College of Education, talked about his five-year-old son’s recent question about  if a boy can marry another boy.

“I was trying to figure out the impact of my answer,” Anderson said. “When I received that question, I realized there’s a difference between embracing something in the abstract and dealing with it in real life.

Diversity is an extremely difficult thing, and we struggle with the things we take for granted.”  

Anderson said he eventually told his son to find someone who loves, respects and understands him.

Anderson writes on diversity issues in higher education and is a proponent for inclusive excellence. However, he said he is unimpressed with how higher education deals with diversity.

“We like to celebrate diversity, but we’re not so good at contesting things,” said Anderson. “The question is the extent to which we really embrace the principles of diversity in our actions and decision-making. Higher education is still in the process of learning what that involves.”

The TEDxDU event on DU’s campus also featured a mystery guest under the alias “Mega Man.”

The unknown speaker initially addressed the crowd over an intercom and asked if the audience assumed he was tall, dark and handsome. He then revealed himself to be Philip Trinh, a senior computer engineering major at DU, whose parents fled Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Trinh listed a number of stereotypes, including an aptitude for math and affinity for Bruce Lee films, which he said falsely represent him and other Asian individuals.  

“I am proud of every identity I have,” Trinh said. “Our challenge is to be inclusive on an everyday basis and judge people by their character.”

Lynn Gangone, dean of the Women’s College, said individuals tend to have inherent assumptions based on physical characteristics. She said there was an instance when she was mistaken for being a woman of color. 

“We are disembodied when we don’t use both our head and our heart,” Gangone said.

Admissions counselor Claudia Hernandez-Ponce also spoke. She said during her second year of college, she considered dropping out as she attempted to reconcile her family’s heritage and academic and professional aspirations in the United States.

Hernandez-Ponce was originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, but attended Metropolitan State College, which is now named Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“You have everything you need to be successful,” said Hernandez-Ponce. “It is up to you if you choose to make it.”

She said she embraced both of her cultures and identities, graduating from Metro in 2006 with a degree in Chicano Studies. Hernandez-Ponce  worked with homeless youth from Denver Public Schools, providing academic resources to students and serving as a peer counselor.

Chancellor Robert Coombe spoke and said he had pride in the DU community’s display of diversity at the event.

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