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'Solar' aims to empower: BSU celebrates MLK Day, introduces new diversity center coordinator

Ye “Solar” Hong, center, coordinator of the Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at BSU, chats with attendees at her welcome event on Thursday at BSU's Beaux Arts Ballroom. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI—Bemidji State University has a new coordinator for its Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Ye "Solar" Hong said she wants to implement various diversity programs at the school, including "Safe Zone" LGBTQ awareness and ally training. She said she also wants to add more programming and events that highlight different cultures, like the school's annual Festival of Nations, and get the center involved in orientations for new students.

"I want to have a platform to enhance the respectful communications among people from different backgrounds, no matter where they come from, their race, gender, age, country of origins," Hong said Thursday. "It doesn't mean that I think I have the power or authority to help someone, but because I have received tremendous help and support during my years in the U.S., so I want to be a person that, if I have that ability and the title or the resources that I have, then I can be able to help students to help someone else as well."

Hong goes by "Solar," she said, because she always hopes to deliver power to the people around her.

Before she headed to Bemidji State, Hong coordinated graduate and international students at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. She served in that school's Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which aimed to help Chinese students transition to campus life in the U.S, according to university staff.

She has a bachelor's degree in English for international finance from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China, a master's degree in sports administration and business administration, plus a doctorate in higher education, from Ohio University. Hong moved from China to the United States in 2008 to pursue her post-graduate degrees. Her first day at BSU was Jan. 9.

Hong was introduced to the community Thursday after an hour-long Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration at the Beaux Arts Ballroom, where professors spoke about the late civil rights leader's legacy and message in between jazz band and choir performances. Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday.

David Frison, a business administration professor at the university, recalled a speech King gave in 1968 at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

There, King used the allegory of Rip Van Winkle, who awoke after 20 years to see that he had missed the American Revolution, to warn against metaphorically "sleeping" through social upheaval and change.

"And one of the great liabilities of life is that all too many people find themselves living amid a great period of social change, and yet they fail to develop the new attitudes, the new mental responses, that the new situation demands," King said. "They end up sleeping through a revolution."

That speech, Frison said, inspired him to speak out when he notices social injustice or bullying, and he exhorted the audience to remain metaphorically awake through the "me too" and "times up" movements, and broad social pushback against sexual harassment and bullying.

"We must not fall asleep or leave it to someone else," Frison said. "It is our time to stay awake through a great revolution."

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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