“There are subtle gestures on campus that make some students feel unwelcome or excluded,” said Farren Fontenot, an Aggies to Aggies peer educator. “To personally feel that made me want to join an organization that could address those issues.”
Aggies to Aggies (A2A) is a peer diversity education program offered to Texas A&M University students and student organizations to promote inclusion and understanding of diversity. The program began as a student organization in 1991 as University Awareness for Cultural Togetherness, and in 2009 rebranded as Aggies to Aggies. In spring 2016, the Division of Student Affairs allocated permanent funding to the organization, which elevated it to a department-level, peer diversity education initiative within the Department of Multicultural Services.
A2A workshops and trainings are facilitated by undergraduate students, known as peer educators, who have completed a series of developmental training sessions during the spring semester, required reading, and a series of observation and facilitator training workshops. Peer educators are selected based on their interest and passion for topics or social identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and social justice.
A series of five workshops can be scheduled throughout the fall and spring semesters that focus on what many students find difficult to understand and challenging to discuss:
- Understanding Culture and Cultural Differences
- Power and Privilege
- Cultural Appropriation 101
- Intent versus Impact
- This is Me: My Story and Identity
The group has hosted 53 presentations, engaging more than 1,200 students during the past year.
“Our goal is to empower Texas A&M students to engage in difficult, often uncomfortable conversations with their peers,” said said A2A Adviser Dear Aunaetitrakul. “Only through this type of healthy dialogue can we break through stereotypes and truly understand that our differences are what makes us stronger as a campus community.”
An Aggies to Aggies peer educator talking to a fellow student about what diversity means to her.
Story and Photos by Athlyn Allen ’19
Division of Student Affairs Marketing Intern
Farren Fontenot ’19, a peer educator and junior management major from China, Texas, is proud of his work in leading workshops and educating students about diversity. He says the organization has done more than just given him the opportunity to teach students. It also gave him the opportunity to learn more about social issues and a safe space to talk through issues affecting his life.“I was already looking for a more serious organization during the second semester of my freshman year, at that point I started to get more into social justice,” said Fontenot. “The email I received from Aggies to Aggies seemed unique in its take on how to deal with these issues.”
Of the five workshops, Fontenot points to “Power and Privilege” as his favorite. “If we learn about privilege, we can also learn how to create equal opportunities for every student.” He also enjoyed the “Intent Versus Impact” workshop because it teaches how micro-aggression can cause harm to others. “Even people with good intentions are unaware of hidden messages they may be sending.”
“You are going to get all different types of people in your organization with cultural differences, and if you don’t learn how to accommodate that you are going to miss out on a large part of the life here on campus.”
A2A recruitment for the fall 2018 semester has started!