Exploring multiculturalism, on and off Hill
The Pugh Community Board is a club on campus that promotes student understanding of multiculturalism.
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As Frida Kahlo stormed the stage in Given Auditorium in her gorilla costume to begin the Guerrilla Girls performance on Monday, Nov. 7, Nicole Sintetos ’12 and Kira Novak ’12 watched the performance with great pride at seeing such an important part of feminist history brought to the College in part through the efforts of the club for which they have worked endlessly.
Sintetos and Novak currently hold the positions of Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the Pugh Community Board (PCB). PCB is a student-run multicultural programming board on campus, which intends to broaden student awareness of multicultural issues surrounding race, gender, class, political views and other forms of diversity in today’s world. The club is a branch of the Pugh Center.
“PCB is to the Pugh Center what the Student Programming Board (SPB) is to Campus Life,” Sintetos said in an analogy of how the clubs operate as a piece of a larger picture. “We operate on a separate budget and are completely student-run.”
“A lot of times we’re seen as similar to SPB, but our board is so much smaller,” Novak added.
But educating students about multiculturalism is a big goal for such a small club to achieve. “I see our mission as, first, bringing multicultural programming to the campus: speakers that introduce new ideas and expose students to new things. And second, promoting inclusivity and community building on campus. Several of our most popular events, including the Pugh Club Palooza and Drag Ball, aim to do both,” Novak said. The Pugh Club Palooza is an open event featuring the various clubs associated with the Pugh Center, while the Drag Ball is an annual event that encourages students to embrace the wide variety of gender differences present on and off the Hill.
Accomplishing their mission has involved a lot of dedication to the club, both in devoting personal time and in brainstorming innovating ways to excite students on a topic that can easily be overlooked. “We strive to balance between larger programs and smaller, community-building events,” Sintentos said.
One of PCB’s most popular community-building events is the newly implemented PC Coffees, which were started during the 2010-11 academic year. Sintetos explained that the topics that are chosen for the events are based on popular topics affecting the campus at that moment. “If we see something not being addressed, we use it for PC Coffee,” she said. Some of the most popular PC Coffee topics have included public vs. private education, religion and sexuality, how being economically-friendly can be difficult across class differences, and political expression and how open students feel they can be about their political views. The group encourages suggestions from the student body for future topic ideas as well.
While small, close-knit PCB events tend to draw in a specific crowd who feel very passionate about the topic being discussed, “bigger events bring in a wider audience and expose more students to multiculturalism,” Novak added.
The steps that the duo has taken to increase the visibility of PCB have paid off. The club, which was smaller and little-known to many students, has grown both in size and scope in the last couple of years. Through greater marketing and an increased willingness to collaborate with other clubs for larger events, the College has certainly felt PCB’s heightened impact.
“PCB used to be all lectures,” Novak said. “That’s not bad, but it only reaches a certain audience.” To attract those that desire a livelier stimulus, the club has experimented with bringing in performers, choreographers, spoken word artists and more to facilitate a variety of events for campus.
Collaborating with other clubs and departments on campus has allowed PCB to attract a larger audience. “We’ve always wanted to diversify our programming, and co-sponsoring [with others] leads to new collaborations,” Novak said. Recent collaborations have included a performance co-sponsored by the Theater and Dance Department, and a future event hopes to bring PCB together with the Psychology Department.
“We are trying to make sure that multiculturalism touches all areas of campus,” Sintetos stressed. “Last year our goal was visibility; and now that we’ve established ourselves, we are looking toward community building.”
For PCB, community building extends further than the confines of campus. They have stressed open admission to their events this year in order to encourage residents of the greater Waterville area to attend. Their generosity has not gone unnoticed.
“One girl came to [Project Voice] from her hometown four hours north of Colby,” Sintetos said. “Colby has so much to offer culturally,” she added, noting how many residents in Maine have no other outlets to really engage themselves in exploring multiculturalism.
The leaders also highlighted the increased popularity of S.H.O.U.T.! (Speaking, Hearing, Opening Up Together) weekend. What began as a PCB event in 2008 has grown to a campus-wide tradition, including not just PCB but also SPB, the Student Government Association (SGA), the Pugh Center, the Dean of Students Office, the Office of the President, academic departments and other clubs on campus.
Sintetos and Novak also confirmed this year’s keynote speaker for S.H.O.U.T.! weekend: Spike Lee. In conjunction with his lecture, PCB is also currently working with Railroad Square Cinema to promote a subsidized showing of all of Lee’s films prior to his arrival. “This involves not just the Colby community but the Waterville community,” Sintetos said.
Being a part of PCB does more for its members than spearheading campus events. The board arrived on campus early, conducting workshops and preparing for the year ahead. Every member of the board was required to give a presentation on a possible speaker for the year—this included calling the agent responsible for that speaker and landing potential bids, then presenting the idea to the board and finding a way to come up with the money for that speaker, and then writing a contract for the business office and establishing a date.
“It teaches members how to deal with agents and contracting, which are real-world lessons,” Novak said.
“I did the work on Guerrilla Girls and was talking to Kahlo right on the phone,” Sintetos added.
But despite the range of ideas that PCB brings to the table, the group’s small budget continues to challenge them, forcing board members to find innovative ways to bring big-budget speakers to the College. “The only reason we’re able to do most events is co-sponsoring,” Sintetos said. “For Lee, we would not have been able to get him without the help of SGA and SPB.”
Besides the arrival of the highly anticipated Lee, PCB has many other events lined up for the school year. Future events include a presentation by documentary filmmaker Kathy Huang and her film, Tales of the Waria, which documents the lives of a transgender community in Indonesia (co-sponsored with The Bridge); the annual PostSecret event; PC Coffees; a speaker on mental health; a Native American dance group and Drag Ball.
“I’m excited for the year,” Novak said, “and we have a lot of potential for the spring.”