IPFW is following the lead of universities across the country who aim to be more inclusive.
So for the first time in university history, IPFW did not crown a homecoming king and queen. Instead, students competed to win the title of “Top Don”.
The Homecoming Committee Chair, Audrey Donat, said the decision was made to even the playing field for students who do not identify as either male or female.
“We had someone last year that was thinking about running, but they were born male and wanted to run as the queen,” Donat said, “so that topic got brought up and we decided this would be the ideal thing.”
Donat said the decision was made after last year’s homecoming, because the university was already going through a lot of changes, so it made sense to implement the shift.
Donat said the new homecoming model was based on the University of Nebraska at Omaha, one of the first universities to replace homecoming king and queen with homecoming “royalty” in 2016.
“I just think it makes it more even, it makes it more open, and we are going for a more welcoming environment across the board on this campus, not just homecoming,” Donat said, “and so I think that is a big benefit to the switch.”
Despite the change, there were no gender-neutral members on the homecoming court. Out of the five members of the 2018 court, three were male and two female.
Unlike other schools who have done away with homecoming king and queen in exchange for two winners of any gender identity, IPFW only had one winner. Donat said the decision was made so students would not feel pressure to campaign with someone.
However, some students had been looking forward to campaigning together.
Kurt Unger, a senior computer engineering major from Churubuscho, Indiana, said he initially chose to run for homecoming court so he could campaign with his friend.
“It’s kind of sad because we wanted to run together, and we wanted to campaign together and have a fun thing to do together, but now it’s kind of more lonely,” Kurt laughed. “I don’t know.”
As a member of OUTspoken, a campus organization which focuses on providing a safe atmosphere for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and allies, Kurt said he can see why the decision was made.
But since there is only one winner, his friend chose not to run, though she still helped him campaign by handing out candy at voting booths.
Other members of OUTspoken were also supportive of the change.
Janelle Hall, a junior psychology and women’s studies major from Fort Wayne said she thinks any effort to make IPFW more inclusive is a good thing.
Janelle said it is very important for people to respect pronouns in a university setting where professors and advisers are supposed to be there on behalf of the students.
However, Janelle said she has heard a mixed bag of responses from other students regarding the change.
“From other people on campus who I’ve talked to its kind of half a joke like, ‘Oh man, there they go, what are they doing?’ and half like, ‘Well that makes sense because we want to be more inclusive,’” Janelle said.
Janelle said respecting gender pronouns is important to her because she recognizes her own privilege. She said she grew up feeling as comfortable about her body as a woman in America can feel.
“I’ve never had to confront that part of my identity in a way that would go against everything our culture says is right,” Janelle said. “So for me, respecting people’s pronouns is respecting that people have gone through different experiences than me.”
Janelle said for some of her friends who are transgender or gender-neutral, being addressed as their chosen pronoun is an important part of being accepted for who they really are.
However, she said she has noticed a generational gap in those who are accepting. Her friends have experienced older people purposefully using the wrong pronoun, something she considers a form of violence.
When this happens, Janelle said her friends often end up crying and feeling really bad about their bodies. She said it leaves them feeling disrespected or like they cannot connect with people.
While the majority of schools still crown a traditional homecoming king and queen, Donat said she expects to see more schools making the change to gender-neutral homecoming titles in the future.
IPFW crowned Emily Day, a junior biology major from North Manchester, Indiana, as the first-ever Top Don on Saturday during half-time at the IPFW men’s basketball game vs. South Dakota State.
The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosted an event titled Dons on the Mic on Jan. 25, where students had the opportunity to perform in the Walb Classic Ballroom.
Students and faculty were encouraged to showcase their singing, dancing, poetry, comedy, and rapping skills.
The program assistant for ODMA, Diana Mejia Bonilla, a senior health-care administration major from San Salvador, El Salvador, said the event aligned with the goals of ODMA: to celebrate diversity and promote inclusiveness.
“One of our biggest goals is to provide students with a platform where they feel comfortable,” Mejia Bonilla said, “and I think this is a good way of doing that.”
Mejia Bonilla said ODMA tries to be inclusive by reaching out to all students, faculty and staff, and creating relationships.
Justin Beckstedt, a sophomore music performance major from Fort Wayne, was the first to take the stage. He said he enjoyed the positive atmosphere as people were not afraid to be themselves.
Justin described himself as a natural performer and performed multiple acts at the event, including song covers and an original dance.
Justin said he loves all crowds, even small ones.
“I feel like it is more intimate, and people get to know each other in smaller crowds,” Justin said. “It just makes everything a little bit more exciting.”
Maggie Blackwell, a senior Spanish major from Fort Wayne, also performed. She taught the audience how to dance the merengue, a skill she said she learned while studying abroad in Mexico.
Maggie said she made a lot of friends at the event and plans on going again in the future. Like Justin, she said she liked how people could be themselves.
“They can get up there and do whatever they want and know that it is a safe space and know that people will clap anyway if it is really horrible,” Maggie said. “Or if it is really good, it’s like discovering talent you didn’t know you had.”
The night ended with a game of “Heads Up,” where around 18 audience members sat in a circle and tried to get each other to guess the word on their phone.
Both Maggie and Justin said they hope the event is advertised more in the future. Maggie said so many people do not know about the events on campus and thought if more people knew, they would come.
“It is like a bonding event for sure,” Maggie said, “especially if you are new on campus or you don’t have a place where you feel comfortable yet, this is definitely an event to come to.”
Mejia Bonilla said ODMA plans to reach out to professors and advisors who have connections with students to perform at or host the event in order to draw in a bigger crowd.
Dons on the Mic will be held again on Feb. 15 and March 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Walb Classic Ballroom.
Being First and the Honors Center are collaborating to offer a potential new scholarship, exclusively for honors students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college.
The director of the IPFW Honors Center, Farah Combs, announced the possibility for the new scholarship at her talk “Are You Honors Program Material?” on Sept 21 in Walb Student Union.
Combs said the application for the first-generation scholarship will hopefully be available soon, following more discussions with HPC members to finalize the decision. Once students are accepted into the honors program, they must complete three credits in an honors or H-option course to apply for scholarships, which can reach $1,000, Combs said.
Aside from scholarship opportunities, Combs said benefits to joining the honors program include early registration for freshmen and sophomores, access to the Honors Center, and making students more marketable after graduation.
Despite these benefits, Julie Creek, director of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, said Being First events about the Honors Center have significantly lower attendance than their other workshops. She said the first time they did the workshop over a year ago, nobody showed up.
“I think a lot of what we are dealing with is that whole impostor syndrome thing that first-gen students frequently deal with,” Creek said. “They can’t conceive of themselves as possibly being honors students, so, you know, why would I bother to go to something that doesn’t apply to me?”
Combs said she thought the talk went well but wished more students came. She said the Honors Center definitely needs to reach out to first-generation students more to make them aware of what the university can offer them.
Many first-generation students who attended the event said they would have considered joining the honors program if they had known more about it sooner. Thaigo Amaral, a junior mechanical engineering major from Piracicaba, Brazil, was one of them.
“If I knew all this information from the beginning I could have considered joining, but now I’m a junior so it’s too late probably,” Amaral said.
Creek said Being First will have to figure out better ways to get people to show up to these workshops. She said she considered having outdoor programs where people walking by can just join in.
“I think the feeling sometimes is that if I walk in that door they’ve got my soul and we don’t,” Creek said. “I mean, we don’t want anyone’s soul. We just want to help them get through school and have the absolute best experience possible. But they ultimately have to be the ones that step up and say, ‘Yes, I want to do this.’”
Being First will hold more workshops throughout the semester on topics such as the library, Facebook, studying abroad and impostor syndrome. Dates for these events can be found on the IPFW website.
He was only 18 when his life changed forever.
South Padre, Texas, was Dustin Faurote’s destination of choice for his first spring break. However, one life-altering accident and 11 years later, Dustin describes the beach as overrated.
Dustin said he was having fun diving in the ocean with friends when disaster struck. One of the waves pulled him down, causing him to hit his head on the sandbar and break his neck.
“But luckily there was a lifeguard on duty. Me,” Faurote said with a smirk. “There wasn’t any lifeguard, but I was a swimmer and a lifeguard, and I just think it was funny that I was the one that got hurt.”
Following his accident, Dustin was pulled out of the water by his friends and airlifted to a hospital. Dustin said that the odds of him even being able to breath on his own were pretty bleak.
Andrew Lindenberg, a senior from Fort Wayne majoring in medical imaging at IPFW, was among Dustin’s many friends at home who were surprised to hear the news.
“I was shocked because him being the person that he was, so active and outgoing, to have something as tragic as that happen to him, it was kinda crazy,” Lindenberg said. “When we first found out, they weren’t 100 percent sure what was gonna really happen to him, because of the fact that the injury was so severe.”
Dustin said he only had a few months of high school left before he was going to attend college to become a physical therapist. However, his plans changed after his accident, when the best-case scenario became breathing on his own and possibly moving his arms.
Now, after eight months of physical therapy in Atlanta, and another couple of years once he returned home to Fort Wayne, he has regained some arm and torso movement as well as control of random muscle groups in his legs.
Dustin said he has walked six very difficult steps since his accident, but relies heavily on his wheelchair. He said with a lot of time and money he could become more mobile in the future.
While Dustin recovered well from his accident, he said the change from his previously active lifestyle was a difficult adjustment.
“It was hard going from benching 285 and running an 18:07 5K, to not being able to feed myself or breath without a ventilator. I missed the ache of a good workout,” Dustin said, “but it was weird being told I’m lucky, and thinking I’m lucky, when I started wiggling toes, lifting my arms, feeling drops of water on my legs, and turning my head.”
Dustin described physical therapy as uncomfortable. He said relearning everything was difficult, but the hardest part was admitting that he needed help.
“I have always been really independent because my mom has always been a single mom working two jobs. I would come home, do my homework, make something to eat, clean up the house, and then do whatever for my mom when she got home,” Dustin said. “Not needing my mom kind of accidentally instilled that you need to rely on yourself. You can count on people, but don’t always depend on others.”
Despite his physical limitations, Dustin has maintained the same independent attitude he’s always had, thanks to the help of Granite Ridge Builders, who he said volunteered to build a new, accessible house for him.
Dustin is currently a senior at IPFW, pursuing a degree in secondary education. He said he hopes to find a job teaching in the area, and to maybe one day feel like an adult.
“One of my biggest hope-to-do things is get back to physical therapy, because I have been able to walk before,” Dustin said, “and I know it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s one of those things that I want to be able to do. To say that as long as you work for it.”
It’s gaining popularity at IPFW despite a lack of support.
While living a vegan lifestyle may be a breeze at schools like the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, students at IPFW have far fewer vegan options.
According to Google, searches for the term “vegan” increased by 32 percent in the past year. In addition, orders for PETA UK’s vegan starter kits have increased from 14,000 in 2013 to 35,000 in 2015, according to its website.
“It’s so easy,” said Zoya Chicks, a freshman industrial design major at MIAD. “It’s hard to think about even not being able to eat vegan, especially since I’m in the city. There are so many vegan options.”
The MIAD cafeteria offers an array of vegan options, ranging from salad bars, vegan pastries, and vegan sandwiches. Chicks also said that some field trips offered only vegan options to students, and described her school as supportive.
However, this is not the case in her hometown of Muskego, Wisconsin. Chicks said being vegan was impossible, and that friends had difficulty making the dietary change too, due to the lack of options.
This same lack of vegan options is prevalent at IPFW, said Aubrey Brinneman, an IPFW senior nursing student from Fort Wayne.
Brinneman said vegan options on-campus are non-existent, making a vegan lifestyle inconvenient but not out of the question.
“I make really good food, but it’s hard to find that, especially here at school,” Brinneman said. “And I think that, from what I know, there are a lot of vegan and vegetarian students here. But no options.”
Brinneman said most vegans at IPFW are used to bringing their own food to campus, but it is hard when they are studying for long hours. She said it would be nice not to have to drive off-campus in order to find vegan choices, which is inconvenient and time-consuming.
However, Brinneman doesn’t see IPFW’s lack of options as the biggest obstacle in being vegan.
“Most of the time that we do struggle is not with eating out,” Brinneman said, “but with going to family member’s houses.”
Judy Tillapaugh, a licensed dietician at IPFW, said the majority of families in the area tend to follow a meat-based diet. Because of this, she said the smaller number of vegans in Fort Wayne compared to other areas could have to do with both social and cultural factors.
Both Brinneman and Chicks described a lack of support from their families who eat meat. However, both stated that eating a vegan diet itself was not as difficult as they had thought it would be.
Brinneman said lack of awareness probably has a lot to do with why fewer people in Fort Wayne are vegan than in other places. However, she said people have appeared interested in the diet, and often come to her with questions.
“When you teach them that there’s meals that are easy and delicious and cheap too, it’s really easy for people to make that connection and make the switch,” Brinneman said while smiling. “In the past year-and-a-half, I personally know five more people that have become vegan, and it’s definitely growing.”
Event for vegans and vegetarians:
- “Where Do You Get Your Protein: Chickpea Cooking Demo”
- For anyone wanting to add more protein and whole foods to their diet
- 3405 Sun Valley Drive, Fort Wayne
- From 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday
- To learn more about the vegan community at IPFW, view the Fort Wayne and NE Indiana Vegans and Vegetarians Facebook group.