Kesha Ram

The first diversity criteria that I fit into coming to UVM was being incredibly far away from most students moving to Vermont. For someone from LA, I just wanted to jump right in and experience what I think is the culture that UVM and Vermont offers, which is very unique compared to where I'm from.

But there were some challenges related to that as well. I remember teachers in class would use examples of being on a ski lift or seeing fireflies, and that was something I couldn't even relate to being all the way from Los Angeles. So I would have to raise my hand and say, you know, "I've seen a firefly in a 'Lion King' movie, but other than that I have no idea what you're talking about." So, you know, just being from a different place and really getting to know the culture and environment here was experiencing a new sense of what diversity can be, which includes people from all walks of life and making sure that you're experiencing everyone's culture was a really new and wonderful experience when I got here. And it did have its challenges. And I'd say to students coming here from different places or from different backgrounds that you will meet some challenges.

You know, this is a predominantly white institution, it's also one where students look at you funny and ask why you've come all the way from Los Angeles to be here. And I would say, you know, I wanted to leave California, I got full scholarships to a number of schools in New England and the International Leader of Tomorrow Award from the University of British Columbia, but once I got to Burlington and saw how open and tolerant people could be if you gave them the chance, I really fell in love with this school. And, particularly, as the first student of color to fulfill a term as the student body president, I think that it was really important for students to see a young woman who was multiracial assume that role and really prove that students of color could overcome the challenges associated with being in such a white institution and could really take leadership in that regard and not just try to push an agenda that only helped the small amount of students of color that are here, but really try to make those connections and help students understand that bringing diverse perspectives to the table is really important for actually accomplishing things and allowing new voices to be heard in the governments of the university. So that was an incredibly rewarding and wonderful experience.

With diversity, a lot of times, it can get really fuzzy and think students think, you know well we'll just throw all of the messy things into the category of diversity. You know, that's all the things that we sometimes celebrate, and we want to embrace, but we don't quite understand. And I think that what was driven home for students in seeing someone not embrace diversity, but let diversity embrace them and their leadership was that it is really important to celebrate diversity and to understand that it is all of us and it is all of what we bring to the table and all of the differences that we share and that we revel in, and not something that we sort of try to understand but set aside to go about our daily lives. It's making sure that we're enriching ourselves and having the full experiences that we can at the university.