When Weinberg first-year Katrina Kuntz attended the Multiracial Student Affinity Space event held by Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) during Wildcat Welcome, she was disappointed to learn that the Mixed Race Student Coalition — an affinity club for individuals who identify with a mixed race or cultural background — no longer existed. So, when MSA officials asked if anyone was interested in restarting the group, Kuntz, along with several other first-years, jumped at the chance to create a space for multiracial students on Northwestern University’s campus.
The Mixed Race Student Coalition was started in 2013 by then-second- years Kalina Silverman and Tori Marquez but eventually disbanded in 2019.
For the first-years interested in restarting the club, the process was difficult. Usually, former executive board members help to train new officers, but there were no existing executive board members to transition the organization.
“We essentially had to restart the club while also picking up the pieces of the old club,” says Elizabeth O’Brien, a Weinberg first-year and the current treasurer.
When the new executive board tried to reach out to the administrators of the old Mixed Race Student Coalition Facebook page, they received no reply. It took months for the new officers to set up the club, and without the social media logins from the previous group, they couldn’t take advantage of the club’s preexisting social media following to spread the word about the revived organization.
The board built off of the existing Wildcat Connection page and the money left from the old club’s Student Organization Finance Office account. They also gave the organization a new name (Multiracial Identity Xperience Education and Dialogue, or MIXED), created a new Instagram account, developed the club’s organizational structure and began recruiting members.
The mixed race community at Northwestern is large and continually growing: According to the 2010-11 Northwestern Common Data Set, only 167 undergraduates, or about 2% of students, self-identified as mixed (The University’s metrics excluded all students who identified as Hispanic or Latino). Years later, the 2019-20 Northwestern Common Data Set reported that the percentage had grown to about 6.3%, and Northwestern Admissions reported that over 17% of the Class of 2024 reported being multiracial.
This academic year, the executive board of MIXED, which is all first-years, has struggled to reach out to and virtually recruit interested students.
Despite these challenges, Kuntz says that MIXED has succeeded so far in creating a community where members can talk about their experiences.
“I don’t think my identity has ever really felt this valid before.”
Katrina Kuntz, Weinberg first-year
“I realized that there’s a lot of ... internal struggles and that kind of thing that I’ve never verbalized but I realize are pretty common in the multiracial community,” Kuntz says. “I don’t think my identity has ever really felt this valid before.”
Medill first-year Alex Perry, MIXED’s membership chair, says that although she thinks a few of the executive board members are part of monoracial groups on campus, MIXED is a place where they can explore all sides of their racial identity instead of having to choose just one.
For O’Brien, her mixed identity is more important than any one of the racial or ethnic identities she holds. She says that MIXED is the one identity-based group where she feels she belongs.
“I felt that being mixed meant that I couldn’t join a Black student union or anything of the many backgrounds that I’m composed of,” O’Brien says. “[MIXED] seemed like a really great opportunity to be a part of something where people who identify with many different ethnic backgrounds and racial identities could come together.”
For Waverly Long, a Bienen and Medill first-year who serves as Events and Outreach co-chair, MIXED is not only a place to gather with other mixed race individuals and learn about their backgrounds but also a place to have meaningful conversations about how media and current events apply to multiracial communities.
One of MIXED’s advisors, C.A. Davis, who works for the Northwestern Media and Design Studio and hosts a podcast about mixed race issues, hopes that these discussions will both help students bond and act as a launching pad for talking about more complex issues.
“There’s always a danger of being in an echo chamber and not really diving deeper into these larger issues, histories, topics,” Davis says. “Being more critical about these discussions I think is what’s important ... so I think time will tell to see how people develop the group.”
Kuntz and O’Brien say that in order to avoid creating an echo chamber, the executive board of MIXED is focused on engaging with these conversations on a larger scale and including all members of the Northwestern community. “Sometimes it can feel like all we’re doing is sitting in a room and talking about our experiences, but what’s that going to solve?” Perry says. “We do want to open up to sharing our experiences with monoracial people.”
The group is hoping to bring topics related to multiracial identity to center stage through guest speakers and events related to different members’ cultures. Their dream is that the club will serve dual purposes on campus.
“One of our goals is educating people on the experience of being mixed race,” Long says. “We really enjoy having dialogues about things that matter to us and things that are important.”
Another goal of the group is to create an inclusive community for all Northwestern students: “Whether or not you’re mixed race, you’re absolutely welcome to join the club,” Long says. “We would love to have you.”