Learn about diversity with sweets

Margaret Wilbourne

People often say diversity is the spice of life, but to a group of students at The University of Alabama, diversity represents something a little sweeter.

Diverse Desserts is a campus organization sponsored by the Honors College and was thought up last year by Al Gilani, a junior majoring in chemical engineering, as an answer to a need he saw on campus for a broader approach to the issues minority groups were already tackling.

“The program was created to be more inclusive to ‘diversity’ than just one group,” said Amber Marks, a junior majoring in business and German who also works with Diverse Desserts. “Diversity is not just physical. People are all different majors, backgrounds, sexual orientations.”

For each Diverse Desserts meeting, a different topic of diversity is paired with a dessert. For example, the first event of the year typically provides Coldstone ice cream with various toppings, which is something Meredith Bagley, a sports communication professor at the University, said is always a win with the attendees.

“College is a place to see and hear and experience new things, and a safe place to take risks. We encourage students to ‘find their people’ [here], because it gets harder after you leave,” she said.

Bagley spoke at a Diverse Desserts meeting last year that dealt with gender identity, and said she was able to observe first hand the impact of the program.

“At the event, attendees were so enthusiastic that I had a hard time getting them back in order [after the second activity of the night]. Diverse Desserts really did a good job of getting into the ‘diversity of diversity,’ because diversity is a lot of things,” Bagley said. “[This program] has really helped expand the ideas of diversity beyond race, because people are complicated – we need to remember there’s a spectrum of types.”

This spectrum was physically represented by the diversity board. The blank board, labeled with the prompt “Diversity is…”, was present at meetings last year and was available for students to add their own ending as they saw fit.

“The before and after of the [words] on the board were reinforcement, proof that we had succeeded,” Gilani said.

While the program reached its goals last year, Gilani said it does not plan to slow down anytime soon.

“[Last year] we had about 200 people show up, when we had held 70 as a high estimate,” Gilani said. “So we will definitely have the participation for success this year.”

Gilani and Marks, who will be serving as the program’s directors, said second-timers can expect to see some adjustments from them as they head into the new year.

Gilani said he is looking forward to the program’s “initiation night.”

“Initiation night is my favorite because it sets the tone and is more of a mixer to let students become comfortable with themselves,” Gilani said. “It’s very casual and gives us a chance to introduce new topics for the next year.”

Students can look for future dates and topics on Facebook, Twitter and events.ua.edu. While the program is based in the Honors College, all students are invited to attend.

Diverse Desserts’ first event of the year, initiation night, will be held Tuesday at 8 p.m. outside of Nott Hall on the Quad.