An Interview with Rachel Saquing: Her Thoughts on “I AM CHAPMAN”
The past decade has seen a push for colleges and universities to better respect the needs of increasingly diverse faculty and student body. Most schools have attempted to meet those requests by adopting course catalogues requiring that students take at least one course on “Diversity.” Many have also initiated programs to increase diversity and diversity awareness on campus. This spike in demand for universities which respect and support diversity has even led media outlets like US News to catalogue universities offering the most diverse environments. Given this I thought, if I’m going to try and define diversity in my final project, it would be interesting to look into what my university, Chapman, does to further diversity and diversity awareness on campus. In other words, how does Chapman define diversity.
Perhaps the most obvious example of Chapman’s efforts to increase diversity is “I AM CHAPMAN” a project which allows students to express their identities publicly on posters around the university, which, in theory, furthers diversity awareness by publicizing the diversity amongst Chapman students. Because I knew little about I AM CHAPMAN before I began this project, in order to further my understanding I turned to my friend and coworker Rachel Saquing, a senior at Chapman who hails from the big Island of Hawaii and who went through the selection process and now has a poster of herself on the I AM CHAPMAN wall in Argyros Forum.
The following is a transcription of my questions posed to Rachel on March 7th, 2017 in Orange CA. Rachel is about 5 feet 5 inches tall, wearing her “Chapman Residence Life” polo with shoulder length brown hair and a distinctively cheery attitude. Everyone in the office appreciates it!
The purpose of my interview with her was to both to increase my knowledge of the I AM CHAPMAN program and to shed light on one person’s experience participating in I AM CHAPMAN. Chapman students have all seen the fruits of the project in the posters spread throughout the Chapman campus but many have yet to hear directly from individuals on the posters. It was my goal to find how these students felt about the project and how it defined diversity
Italics denote my questions to Rachel
To start off what’s your major here at Chapman?
I’m a Health Science with a Pre-Occupational Therapy emphasis and Sociology minor.
When did you start school here?
Right after I graduated high school, Fall 2013. It was a pretty great decision!
. . . Since you think you made a good choice, are you excited to be finishing up school or do you wish you could stay here longer?
I have enjoyed my time here at Chapman, but I am ready to move on to the next chapter! I have very bittersweet feelings about finishing up school.
And what are your plans after you finish your degree?
A detailed plan after graduation. . .? (Ya sure, why not?) I plan to return home to Hawaii for the summer, to work my summer job. After my summer job, I want to make my way back up to California (around August) to start applying to graduate schools for Occupational Therapy.
Oh awesome! What schools are you considering?
It really depends on my GRE score to be honest.
Oh fair enough, well then, given that you’re going out into the world (so to say) after this semester what would you say has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned here at Chapman?
The most valuable thing I’ve learned here at Chapman is finding my voice. . . But since coming to Chapman, I’ve [also] learned how to speak up, to ask for help, to voice my opinions [through] being unapologetically myself through my words and actions.
Well I think that’s a really great set of skills to have developed and I think that establishing all of those things in students is an important component of Chapman’s mission statement so it seems like they’ve succeeded in this instance.
Anyway, moving on to how Chapman is working to bring about awareness of diversity, and how you’ve been involved in that. SO, we’ve all seen the “I am Chapman” Posters on campus I know the application is submitted through orgsync but how’d you get involved in it?
I have a friend who works in student engagement and she contacted me about the project so I applied through the orgsync portal, and was selected.
Okay, that makes sense. And what were the identities you selected for the poster? Secondly, how much did you think about the identities you selected? Did they kinda pop into your head or did you have to consider them over time?
My identities I selected were: “I am a Native Hawaiian,” “I am a Leader,” “I am a Woman of Service.” I already knew that I wanted to put my Native Hawaiian identity as one of the statements because it is how I identify myself first. The other two didn’t really pop into my head. I had to sit really think about who I am and what I value. I knew that I valued service and giving back to the community. I went to a very service oriented school (K-12) and that value has been instilled in me since – so that’s how the statement of “I am a woman of service” came about. Then I needed one more. The “I am a Leader” statement came a couple days after I started the application. I was going to put my major, or that I was in a sorority but I wanted to dig a little deeper than that. Plus, those aren’t the things I identify with the most – I am not my major.
Oh ok so a lot of thought went into each one. So it seems like you described why you selected the first too, why did you include “I am a leader” above something else?
Well, I was fortunate enough to hold a lot of leadership experience and really grew as a leader and as an individual in my eyes[while at Chapman]. I know that I am not the same person I was in Fall 2013, and I have to thank my leadership positions and opportunities for that. I have been taught to always be humble and when people recognized me as a leader, I knew I had those qualities but never made it known to my peers or myself – I always just rolled with it. But really looking at my leadership qualities, skills, my work ethic, and my relationship with people, it made sense that I am leader, and needed to have the outward confidence to say it. The “I am a leader” statement was a big step for me to take!
. . . Out of curiosity would you make the same choices if you were asked to do the program now?
Yes I would. I was really hung up on my last statement and was just going to put something that was important but surface level to me [major, sorority etc.]. I’m really glad I took the time and built that confidence to make my leader statement.
How important to you was this program? Did you do it because you were asked or were there other reasons?
This program was important to me! I knew about this program since I was a sophomore and thought about applying for it at that time but it kind of fell off my radar until my senior year. Part of the reason why I participated in this program is because my friend suggested it, it’s something that I’ve always admired and wanted to do. . . [I also wanted] to do it for me. I gave a lot of thought into what I wanted on my poster because these words are who I am – they are literally printed in front of my picture. I wanted it to be meaningful for me!
That’s a great way to frame why the project can be thought provoking for the participants. Is your picture presently posted on campus?
Yes my picture is currently posted on campus on the I am Chapman wall in the Student Union area along with the other framed posters.
. . . By the way, has someone you don’t know ever come up to you and talked with you about your poster or anything?
(She laughs), That’s a good question, I don’t ever remember that happening but I feel like it’s one of those things that could’ve happened but somehow it hasn’t. . . I don’t know, it’s weird.
Fair enough, well please everyone who reads this go check out that wall in the Student union to see for yourself what this project looks like and bug Rachel about it. Anyway, Chapman claims that “ Chapman University is only as diverse as its student body and the I AM CHAPMAN campaign is designed to explore and affirm the different identities that make up Chapman University as a whole.” Do you think this project helps achieve this goal?”
I think this program helps achieve somewhat of the goal. . .
[Can you explain what you mean by that?]
There may be people like me who are humbled by their identities and do not wish to state those identities or do not have the confidence to. This program encourages people to break out of their shell to share and explore their identities – but unfortunately, Chapman can’t reach everyone!
Ok that sounds fair, maybe the stated goal is more of an ideal than a practical reality. But I’m not entirely convinced, I know this sounds like a silly question and I’m going to phrase it in a silly way, what is it about posting pictures which say things about people that furthers diversity?
Hmmmm….the first thing that c[o]me[s] into mind is when someone can resonate with a statement and think “I’m not alone, someone also identifies] as a “…” [It helps] further diversity because when you’re walking around campus, all you see is just people. Yes we all look different but we also come with super different backgrounds. So bringing that out in a visual presentation makes everyone more aware of the different identities out there.
Ok, is there any one thing you would recommend to the project managers to improve the program? What could be done better, or more generally, what would you do differently?
I honestly don’t know. This is the last question want to answer. I don’t think I would have coordinated it differently. Oh, maybe get faculty and staff involved too, like public figures on campus (Dean Price, Struppa, even Sodexo workers). I see Chapman as a huge family! So let’s talk about the diversity of everyone, not just students.
Ya I think that’s a fantastic idea, I think you’re onto something there! This may sound like a superfluous question given what you’ve told me but what was your overall experience with the project positive or negative, just so we have it on paper?
It was nothing but a positive experience! It really made me dig deep into who I am and what I value the most and what identities I most resonate with.
And would you participate in the project again?
Yes I would participate in this project again, but, it would take me a while to think of three new identity statements.
How important is this program to achieving its goal. If you had a blank slate and were asked to work on a program to promote diversity and bring about awareness of the diverse student body at Chapman what would you do?
Wow that’s a really hard question…One thing I would attempt to do is to reach out to the different clubs and organizations on campus and see how they identify themselves as a unit. This way, we can reach more people with one common background and then branch out further. I know this program is already doing that by being a Chapman University student as a common background but if we really want to see more of the diversity here on campus, I think we need to reach out to more students.
I couldn’t agree more, and Rachel, I think that’s a fantastic suggestion especially in tandem with your idea regarding including the faculty in the project. I must say I really appreciated you taking the time to do this interview it’s been really enlightening for me. I didn’t come in with a really great understanding of the project beyond the perspective of an outsider trying to conceptualize it— it’s been really great to hear the perspective of an insider. Thank you so much. . .
The interview allowed me to view the notion of diversity on the Chapman campus through it’s premier program for diversity awareness from the perspective of an insider. What I gleaned from the project was that diversity is often times linked closely with culture when we think about diversity in the practical sense. Questions like Who are we? where did most of us come from? by what does our culture define us? Are all important to ask when attempting to build a diverse community. The idea of a diverse culture is another thing I hope to work with in my final project. While I alluded to this by introducing Walt Whitman’s poetry in other posts I think it’s a difficult concept to grapple with as the very things which make a culture diverse might be the things that can undermine it. I’m excited to explore the topic