Student Spotlight: Middle of Nowhere to Middle of Everything

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Student Spotlight: Middle of Nowhere to Middle of Everything

Student Brianna Ridenour
By Brianna Ridenour

My name is Brianna Ridenour and I am a sophomore Management major with minors in Spanish and Psychology. I am very involved on campus with three part-time jobs and leadership positions in two UNL registered student organizations, as well as being an Honors Ambassador, a Certified Strengths Coach in the Clifton Strengths Institute and a member of the Nebraska Women’s Leadership Network. I have the pleasure of serving as President of the Multicultural Business Student Association (MBSA) and Chair of the Executive Council of Multicultural Organizations (ECMO). I was also one of thirty students to be selected for Franco’s List; this is an honor that recognizes students as outstanding agents of character and integrity

I am a firm believer in treating everyone with love and respect; and I am passionate about diversity and inclusion.

I grew up in a small town in the Panhandle of Nebraska called Alliance. We are commonly known for Carhenge, UNL alumnus and basketball star Jordan Hooper, and the BNSF Railway. We are a town with a population of approximately 8,500 people, but that number is always fluctuating. According to the 2010 Census, statistics showed Alliance as a predominately white community with 87.49% of residents (7,429 out of 8,491 people) identifying themselves with the “white alone” option on the survey concerning their race. Also only 12.34% (1,048 out of 8,491 people) of the population in Alliance was made of “persons of Hispanic or Latino origin.”

I mention the above because when I arrived on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus in the fall of 2014, I had one of the most eye opening, impactful experiences of my life. I had culture shock.

Coming to UNL from my small town was overwhelming in the beginning, but after meeting other students from around Nebraska, the United States, and the world I became more in love with people’s cultures, backgrounds, and stories. It’s as if I was being introduced into a whole new world.

However, I was not fully aware of my passion for diversity and inclusion until the fall of 2015. That is when several presidents of minority student organizations joined forces to raise awareness of issues they were facing on campus. Thus, we created the Executive Council of Multicultural Organizations. We helped organize the Black Lives Matter Rally on UNL’s campus in November 2015; and then continued to raise awareness of racism and discrimination and work for change by meeting with the University’s administration, as well as creating the UNL Police Advisory Council through meetings with chiefs of the UNL Police Department and the Lincoln Police Department.

The Executive Council of Multicultural Organizations was recently awarded the Daryl Swanson Campus Impact Award because of its significant contribution to the overall improvement of student and campus life.

I am honored to work with the people I do, and I am thankful that everyone working with this cause has an open-mind and a willingness to learn. I am also grateful for UNL’s response to our ideas and the way they are already underway on projects to combat issues such as racism and discrimination, working to create a more inclusive campus.

From my experiences here at the University, I have learned a lot of life’s lessons in a short period of time. I also have been forced to question some of my previous beliefs and become a more open-minded individual. My empathy has allowed me to imagine myself in others’ shoes and look at the world from their points of view.

In the beginning of my college career, I was always nervous that I would say something that would make me sound uncultured or ignorant. However, through conversations with various people from different backgrounds, it became easier to realize that we share common interests and the only way that I can learn about these different cultures is to ask questions. Do not let assumptions and prejudices get in the way of meeting someone new.

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