Assistant Dean for Student Life, Equity & Inclusion Dr. Teo Cooper joins the stage with the Columbia College Athletics Spirit Squad to lead a dance with attendees at the Celebration of Diversity inside Southwell Gymnasium. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade

Captivating musical performances and the aromas of international cuisine filled the Southwell Complex on Thursday, Oct. 26, during Columbia College’s 2023 Celebration of Diversity.

Students, faculty and staff gathered for the two-hour event organized by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to experience several performers and to learn more about the different cultures and backgrounds that are represented within the college community. The International Students, Queers and Allies, and Black Student Union clubs also tabled at the event to share information about their student organizations and facilitate various activities to promote inclusion.

“We are many voices, many faces, many experiences, many expressions, many identities, but we are one Columbia College,” said Dr. Teo Cooper, assistant dean for Student Life, Equity & Inclusion.

Columbia-based hip-hop artist and entertainer Nic Danger performed multiple songs on stage and was joined by renowned dancer Marquese “Non-Stop” Scott, who has 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube.

Danger also spoke to the crowd about the importance of embracing and promoting diversity.

“We’re all pieces of the puzzle,” Danger said. “To have an institution like Columbia College that is very inclusive of different cultures and backgrounds means a lot. It’s allowing people to be who they are, giving them the space to become who they want to be, and providing the tools and resources to do that.”

The CC Unified Voices Gospel Choir harmonized in a brief but powerful concert, and the CC Spirit Squad showed off a dance routine and inspired fellow students to come forward to the dance floor.

The Columbia College Unified Voices Gospel Choir took the stage in a round of energetic performances inside Southwell Gymnasium at the Celebration of Diversity. Photo by Columbia College Photographer & Graphic Designer Abigail Wade

“I think this is amazing and we need to do it every year, if not every semester,” Spirit Squad member Emily Cote said of the celebration during an interview with KRCG 13 TV. “It’s so important that everyone feels included and a part of this campus community.”

Throughout the program, attendees sampled international cuisines offered around the gymnasium, including Mediterranean, European, Latin American, Caribbean and Asian specialty dishes.

There was also a variety of All-American desserts available, such as pumpkin pie, apple pie and strawberry shortcake.

“Hosting a powerful event like this is a reminder of all we can accomplish together as we focus on ensuring that all members of our college family feel safe and valued,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Sandra Hamar said at the conclusion of the event. “We want to make sure every voice is heard and every student is given equal opportunity to thrive.

“While today is a time to celebrate the diversity we have at CC, I want to encourage us all to continue celebrating our diversity every single day.”

Continuing the theme of Thursday’s celebration, Columbia College will host its second annual Parade of Nations on Wednesday, Nov. 1, during halftime of the Cougar men’s basketball home game against Avila University, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. International students, faculty and staff will carry their country’s flags in procession around the court.