As the quest to change perception of the homogeneous student body at Fairfield rages on, students have taken the lead in the planning of diversity-centered groups.

A newly established student diversity program challenged Fairfield students to “increase respect and understanding on the Fairfield University campus for the contributions and lifestyles of various underrepresented racial, cultural and economic groups in our society,” said Fairfield psychology professor Betsy Gardner.

Six student teams and one faculty advisor created their own proposals focusing on an issue relevant to campus and important to them as well. Proposal topics ranged from GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual) student understanding to a campaign about self-image and women’s awareness.

Three of these proposals were selected as winners of grants. The students receiving grants were honored at a press conference Tuesday in the Barone Campus Center lobby.

The winners were The Closet Collegiate (homosexual rights and awareness), the Fairfield Roots (origin and ethnic background of Fairfield students and faculty), and Project Peg (female body image awareness).

“The money comes from private organizations and is allotted in equal amounts to the final three student proposals,” said Gardener.

Gardener spearheaded the program with Larri Mazon, director of the Center for Multicultural Relations and FUSA members including Ashley Toombs ’07, student body representative of the grants. Toombs described the selection process as “extremely difficult,” adding that the chosen groups “best illustrated the proposal criteria.”

University President Fr. Jeffrey von Arx, who has set out to diversify Fairfield’s cultural makeup, described the event as a “wonderful occasion.” After the presentation, von Arx said the goal of the program was to “broaden diversity in terms of racial, social and cultural standards.”

“[The] good reception from the committee will allow the program to continue beyond its inaugural year,” von Arx added.

Darci Fulcher ’07, whose Project Peg proposal centered around female body image, received one of the three grants. She was thrilled with the result.

“It was a very difficult journey which required a lot of time, effort and hard work. Our message is relevant to every student on campus, and getting the chance to put our Project Peg campaigns into action is definitely worth it.”

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