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Cultural aides help encourage diversity

January 16, 2013

Hear Kate Freiberger, an aide in the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, discuss her experiences.

Photo by Lilly Keyes | The State News

From the knit German flag pillow lying on Kate Freiberger’s sofa to her excited talk of trips to Mexico, Costa Rica and Germany, Freiberger’s craving for diversity is shown in every aspect of her life.

So when the genomics and molecular genetics sophomore found out she would have the chance to be an intercultural aide for McDonel Hall this academic year, she couldn’t wait to move in, she said.

“I was so excited,” Freiberger said. “For me, it was more the mentoring aspect I really liked.”

As an intercultural aide for the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, her job is to help the roughly 200 students in McDonel Hall who might be feeling lost in the academic, cultural or collegiate sense, Freiberger said.

Although her door is always open, not all students feel compelled to step inside.

“We’re a mystery on campus, I feel like,” she said.

Neuroscience freshman Samuel Akwei-Sekyere, who came from Ghana, said when he came to MSU, intercultural aides were just as mysterious to him as Freiberger described.

But when he experienced academic uncertainty, he turned to biomedical laboratory sciences junior Neco Wilson — another OCAT representative in McDonel Hall — hoping to find help getting a research position in his field.

After that experience, Akwei-Sekyere regularly began to seek help from his intercultural aides, an action that isn’t necessarily common among his floor mates, even though their help could be beneficial, Akwei-Sekyere said.

“Before I actually got to know them, I just thought it was one of those normal positions you get in school, you know just for the money and stuff,” he said. “But once I got to know (intercultural aides), I changed my whole academic career around.”

Although it isn’t uncommon for intercultural aides to be confused with resident assistants, Tiffany Toriumi, area coordinator for OCAT, said it is the aides’ responsibilities to not only be a rock for their residents, but to promote and host cultural events on campus.

Wilson said it is important to create a family-like dynamic between themselves and the residents on their floors.

While the aides work to form bonds with residents, they also form bonds with each other in the process, commonly calling each other aide brother and aide sister.

“I decided I wanted to be (an aide) because I wanted the personal growth,” Wilson said. “When I think of the aide family, I think of it as a family for me in the residence hall.”

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