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Unity Day 2023 set for Sept. 26 with special events for students, faculty, and staff

September 11, 2023
By: Bellalorraine Carey-Hicks

Worcester State University will host Unity Day on Tuesday, Sept. 26, with a full day of events to celebrate the diverse experiences and identities of students, staff, and faculty.

New this year is an all-day immersive art-making experience that invites students, faculty and staff to take part in the creation of a mural inside the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery and the building of a Unity Tree on the lawn between Ghosh and the Administration Building. Other events include an LGBTQ+ panel, a spiritual and religious life workshop, and the third annual Unity Walk that will be followed by a flag raising ceremony recognizing the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. (See full list of events below).

The events were curated by a university-wide Unity Day Committee to achieve 10 campus goals, among them, to encourage individuals to discover new knowledge about themselves, others and the university, and also to extend themselves to others in ways that contribute to building a collective sense of belonging for people of all identities on campus.

“We really want people to make their best effort to attend at least one event on Unity Day,” said Stacey Luster, the university’s general counsel and assistant to the president for Employment and Equal Opportunity. “There’s such a variety of sessions that there’s something for everyone. Some faculty have already expressed their intent to bring their classes to Unity Day sessions. Staff members could go as an office and set the stage to have discussions about these issues.”

This year’s Unity Day is the university’s second. Luster credits former student trustee Anna Johnson ’22 as the visionary behind the first Unity Walk in 2021. “She was the one who wanted it to be celebratory,” Luster said, “and to really reflect the diversity on the campus.”

Last year, the university expanded the Unity Walk into the first Unity Day and followed up with a campus survey to gather feedback and comments on how to improve the tradition. This year’s programming reflects much of the feedbackincluding adding more dynamic and interactive events such as art making, yoga, and Q+A discussions that allow students to be active participants. In addition, the Center for Teaching and Learning will offer a program just for faculty to explore how to integrate diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) into the classroom at Worcester State.

The goal, says Luster, is for the spirit of Unity Day to continue throughout the year and in all aspects of university life.

“Students can make Unity Day a part of daily life by getting involved in committees,” Luster said. “There are the DEIJ committees, student organizations, or students can start a club to say, ‘I’m here! And I want you to recognize me.’ Students can also pursue work study positions in offices that do the things they are passionate about. I hope that students will get engaged and live a life of unity every day.”

Here is the full calendar of Unity Day events. For continuous updates on events, please visit the Unity Day website.

9 a.m.-4 p.m. – Hands-on Arts Event: Mural & Unity Tree

  • Presenters: Omarthan Clarke &  Stacey Parer
  • Mural making location: Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery, Ghosh Building
  • Unity Tree creation location: Lawn outside of Ghosh Building (Rain location for Unity Tree: Student Center Exhibit Area)
  • This hands-on creative experience invites students, faculty, and staff to participate in the creation of a Unity Day charcoal mural inside the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery and the creation of a Unity Tree outside on the lawn. Art supplies will be providedjust bring your creative spirit, sense of play, and unique identity.

8:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. – We Speak UP: “Bystander intervention as a mechanism to interrupt discrimination on campus”      

  • Presenters: Omarthan Clarke & Sarah Valois
  • Intended audience: Faculty and Staff
  • Location: Foster Room, Third floor, Student Center
  • Worcester State’s bystander empowerment program is designed to provide bystander education and essential intervention skills training, with a focus on opportunities to take action and best practices for difficult conversations.

10 a.m.-11:15 a.m. –  Spiritual/Religious Life Event

  • Presenters: Student faith leaders, multi-denominational faith leaders, and the Hartwell Institute
    Location: Blue Lounge, first floor, Student Center
  • Worcester State students and community faith and spiritual leaders from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and non-religious backgrounds will have candid discussions on how their faith and spirituality build strength, resilience, and community. All are welcome.   

11:15 a.m.-11:30 a.m. – Unity Walk        

  • Presenters: Worcester State community and DEI Office
  • The entire Worcester State community is invited to gather for the Unity Walk starting at the Sullivan Auditorium near the fountain—rain or shine.

11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. – Unity Walk to Common Ground + Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities Flag Raising

  • Location: Common Ground outside of Student Center (rain location: Blue Lounge)
  • National anthem sung by Caitlyn Costello

12:30 p.m.-2:15 p.m. – In Our Shoes Student Panel             

  • Presenter: Student Accessibility Services / Fran Manocchio
  • Location: Sheehan Multipurpose Room
  • Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Gamma Chi, Worcester State University’s chapter of Delta Alpha Pi, the international honor society for disabled students, are pleased to present In Our Shoes, a student-led panel discussion. The diverse voices and lived experiences of disabled students within our campus community will raise awareness about ableism, describe how to provide access and reduce barriers, and promote disability pride. Please join us!

2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m. – Uplifting LGBTQ+ Voices  

  • Presenters: Dr. Riley McGuire and Alison Park, LGBTQIA+ Resource Center
  • Location: Blue Lounge, first floor of Student Center
  • This session will focus on fostering LGBTQ+ community and culture at Worcester State. It will include a student work, a discussion of relevant resources, and a Q&A portion with audience engagement.

2:30 p.m.-3:20 p.m. – Integrating DEIJ – Debriefing, celebrating, and moving forward,  talking about what’s going on in the future”              

  • Presenters: Center for Teaching & Learning / Mary Fowler
  • Location: Fallon Room, third floor of Student Center                                                            
  • Faculty will join for coffee and conversation in the CTL: Faculty Development Center to discuss our efforts to increase equity in our classes. We will celebrate our successes and share our lessons learned. We will develop plans to come together in the academic year to work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in our classes and with our faculty colleagues.

4:15 p.m.-4:45 p.m. – DEIJ Strategy Update

  • Presenters: Office of DEI / Stacey Luster
  • Location: Wellness Center, Wellness Room 204
  • Join Worcester State University trustees for an update on how Worcester State is advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. 

6:15 p.m.-7:45 p.m. – Unity Day Yoga                    

  • Presenters: Deborah Alvarez O’Neil and Mary Fowler
  • Location: Wellness Center, Wellness Room 207
  • Registration is encouraged but not required. Click here.
  • The word “yoga” means union, so this year Unity Day will close with a special yoga class meant to unite all members of the community for gentle movement, meditation, and belonging. Unity Day Yoga will be a trauma-informed, inclusive, and adaptive class suitable for all levels and those new to yoga. Co-taught by Worcester State’s Deborah Alvarez O’Neil (RYT-500, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist) and Mary Fowler (ERYT 200), the class will be offered both on the mat and from a chair/wheelchair. This class will include a gentle/slow flow, meditation and relaxation, and breathwork. Deborah Alvarez O’Neil (RYT-500, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist), the university’s communications director and a veteran of the U.S. Army, has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years and teaching for a decade. A certified yoga therapist, Deborah has advanced training in trauma-informed yoga, yoga for anxiety, depression, mental health, and neurological disorders. She teaches yoga to men in the addiction recovery and mental health units at the Worcester County House of Corrections. Mary Fowler (ERYT 200), a Worcester State professor of mathematics, has been teaching yoga since 2010 at Central Mass Yoga and Wellness in West Boylston. She has contributed to the Yoga Warriors program, which focuses on positive affirmations, yoga postures, breathing, and relaxation techniques with particular focus on supporting veterans and first responders to develop resilience during and after seasons of trauma.
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