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Computer experiment gets under students’ skin

Sophomore Lindsey Austgen gazes how Race Experience Kiosk re-imagined her phowith Asian ethnicity. | ChristNance Lazerus/Post-Tribune

Sophomore Lindsey Austgen gazes at how the Race Experience Kiosk re-imagined her photo with Asian ethnicity. | Christin Nance Lazerus/Post-Tribune

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Updated: February 21, 2014 6:18AM



GARY — As Indiana University Northwest students saw their identities change on screen, their reactions ranged from surprised laughter to thoughtful silence.

The students were trying the “race experience” kiosk, which was set up at the Moraine Student Center last Wednesday as part of a slate of activities to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. It will be open through Friday, Jan. 24.

The kiosk screen asks participants to contemplate the reasons for bigotry and opportunities for diversity before changing their eyes, noses, cheekbones and skin color depending on if they hit buttons for Black, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Indian, or White. Participants can email the photos to their email accounts.

On Friday, Professor Steve Dunphy brought students from his Introduction to Business course to get their reactions, and asked them to write an essay on how people might treat them differently if they belonged to a different race.

“IUN is part of a very diverse community, and I think we can all do a little better when it comes to inclusion and diversity,” Dunphy said. “Inclusion really works, especially in the business world. If a business starts discriminating against certain people, they lose out on a wide swath of customers.”

Freshman Raven Saavedra said the experience was definitely surprising.

“I definitely didn’t expect to look so different,” said Saavedra, who is from Merrillville. “It wasn’t just skin color.”

James Wallace Jr., director of the IUN office of diversity, equity and multicultural affairs, said the diverse makeup of the campus encourages conversations about these issues.

“We’ve all heard Dr. King’s quote about don’t judge a man on the color of his skin but by the content of his character, but King also said the purpose of education is to get people to think critically and intensely, and the goal of education should be intelligence plus character,” Wallace said. “The kiosk allows people to see themselves in a different light, look at themselves both internally and externally, and look at our similarities.”

Gary resident Cylk Joseph, a sophomore, said the kiosk was a fun opportunity. He’s looking forward to sharing his personal experiences as an African-American in the essay.

“When I saw the essay question about being treated differently, I chuckled because I’ve pretty much experienced that,” Joseph said.

Junior Shannon Rockstad, who is originally from Long Beach, Calif., said growing up in a predominantly Hispanic environment made this assignment particularly interesting.

“I know how it is to feel like you’re not being treated the same (because of your race),” Rockstad said.



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