Photo courtesy of CERRU A student model walks in CERRU's 3rd annual fashion show, which explores identity versus perception.

Spotlight on CERRU: The Center for Ethnic, Racial and Religious Understanding

4 mins read

CERRU is a non-partisan organization that facilitates cross-cultural events to enhance understanding across the Queens College community.

“Queens College is an incredibly diverse campus, often cited as the most diverse campus in the country. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean everyone comes together and engages with each other naturally, often times people stay in their own groups,” Associate Director Sophia McGee said. “CERRU is supposed to provide a space to bring people together, to engage with each other and also to discuss difficult issues that are affecting us on campus and in the community.”

CERRU’s events create a safe outlet for students to voice their opinions and hear the voices of others. They discuss topics such as issues of faith, race, gender, domestic violence and more.

“There have been many times where a student has said ‘this is the first time I’ve talked to someone who was that different from me. And I actually have a sense that there are some similarities about what we believe and what we value.’ It opens the door for folks to pursue finding out about people who are assumed different, and making some connection,” Associate Director John Vogelsang said.

A popular event among students is the annual Interracial Fashion Show. The event addresses the issue of social identity and focuses on two different looks: what people expect the models to look like based on their background and the way they really view themselves.

“It’s not the idea to change anyone’s mind about their beliefs, but to consider the possibility of what other people are considering themselves so it’s more understanding and less antagonizing,” Director of Programming Yael Rosenstock said.

When it comes to planning new events, many ideas are based on issues that are difficult to talk about in other environments.

“Instead of Google searching questions about unfamiliar cultures and topics or reading a book about it, I’ve learned how to ask someone about something if it’s unfamiliar to me and I want to understand it further. You learn a lot more from talking to someone about something as oppose to reading the words on a page. CERRU has really enhanced my perception of the world we live in,” Monica Roman, a student intern and fellow, said.

The Ambassador and Fellowship programs are two student programs offered by CERRU. After an application and interview process, CERRU Fellows enter a two-year program where, through various projects and training, they learn how to embrace diversity and impact social change.

The Ambassador program is designed for students who are leaders of clubs on campus. To help them lead in their organizations, they go through training in cross-cultural engagement and learn how to create a safe-space for dialogue.

Fellows and Ambassadors are students who are curious to engage with all kinds of individuals, and are ready to deepen their way of interacting with people from different lifestyles.

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