It might be fair to say that “Unidiversity” is a documentary more than 20 years in the making.
Produced and directed by Phillip Powell, associate professor of communications, it will be screened at a Core-approved event on Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Community Room of the Christopher Center.
Powell said the title is a play on the word university by combining “unity” and “diversity;” the current state of both on Valpo’s campus is the main focus of this film.
Powell has been at Valparaiso University since 1994. One of the video tapes on his office bookshelf when he first arrived was called, “‘A Work in Progress,’ VU and the Challenge of Diversity.”
It was an interactive video produced by a dual class of the communication and theatre departments. The video was composed of mock scenarios and real-life interviews related to diversity.
“The video ended with a challenge saying they really didn’t want to end this process, they would like to continue it,” Powell said.
However, they never got the chance, as the video was shown once and Sheila Schroeder, one of the faculty members in the video, was replaced by Powell the next semester.
Throughout his career at Valpo, Powell has worked with the Office of Multicultural Programs and was an advisor for the Black Student Organization from 2010-2014.
For several years, his passion for filmmaking led him to record and edit each year’s video, which would be played during Black History Month.
Powell said he hasalways had an interest in showing people what was happening with diversity on campus. He said when the Harre Union opened in 2010, students had the opportunity to come together in a central location.
However, Powell noticed students would segregate themselves into their own ethnic groups. He also realized while many students from the OMP would attend the Black History Month dinner, very few of them were white.
“I start to question that,” Powell said. “It’s like, what’s going on at this institution when it comes to diversity?”
Powell wondered what students, faculty, staff and the administration were doing to integrate and make increased diversity a priority on campus.
“With my interest (in) being able to put together documentaries and questioning that, I came up with (the) concept to make a documentary on the current climate of diversity at the institution,” Powell said.
Powell now had the opportunity to continue the process that was started 22 years earlier. “Unidiversity” opens with footage from the original 1994 video.
Powell interviewed students who either held office positions in OMP organizations or were international students. Though he filmed several OMP events to document what they were doing, he also wanted to focus on individuals and their stories.
Powell interviewed faculty members who had a relationship to diversity, such as history professor Heath Carter and men’s soccer coach Mike Avery. Both are white men who have interracial families.
One of the questions Powell asked his interviewees was what they thought diversity was like at the university.
“I never tried to sway this as a negative message,” he said. “I present the information from their point of view to make sure that they are heard and seen and said, ‘This is what’s happening, and this is what we wish would happen.’”
Powell said his “passion really is to demonstrate what diversity is like at this institution,” and that his hope is to see more students and faculty members celebrating that diversity.
“You can’t have a student body that reflects diversity when you (have) two people working that look like them,” Powell said.
Monique Nunes is the social director of the OMP, the campus ministry associate, and was one of the faculty members who appears in the film. She agreed to be a part of the documentary because “diversity is very near and dear to (her) heart.”
“With my father being a pastor and my mother being an educator, I was taught very early on that if all of your friends look like you, you’re doing something wrong,” Nunes said.
Powell asked Nunes was what kind of “flavor” she brings to the university and to the city of Valpo. She responded she is “willing, able and open to learning and getting to know someone.”
Nunes said while Valpo does a good job at diversity of different ethnic groups, it still needs improved integration.
“One of the things I said in the documentary was, ‘It’s simple for (you) to invite me to a dance, but it’s intentional if you ask me to dance at the dance,’” Nunes said. “So don’t just invite someone into your circle, but let them be a part of the experience.”
According to the official trailer, the film was sponsored by BSO. David Tucker is a senior and the President of BSO. He and other members of the organization were interviewed for the documentary.
“I think it’s good for everyone to see this video so they can learn about their community and what it’s like for people of color, and just what it’s like for different people from various backgrounds,” Tucker said. “There’s a lot to be learned through the video about Valpo’s community.”
Contact Daniel Loftus at email@example.com.