After gaining access to the licensed title of “Little 500,” the event can finally take its place as a prominent event for all students, Union Board cultural events director Kelsey Padgham said.
“I think it’s a huge statement on IUSF’s part that we’re so glad to be a part of,” Padgham said. “This is an event that Union Board prides itself of being a part of because we have historically missed this IU demographic on the campus in past events.”
Organized annually by the Union Board and National Pan-Hellenic Council and now in collaboration with IUSF, the Little 500 Step Show features step teams from IU and NPHC fraternities and sororities such as Alpha Phi Alpha, Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha and Kappa Alpha Psi.
While the event traditionally highlights African-American fraternities and sororities, Padgham said its recognition as a Little 500 event will help break the trend of Union Board sponsored events mainly drawing white students.
“We use a scanning system as students enter our events which gives us basic demographic information, and the majority of the students that are coming to our event are white undergrads,” Padgham said. “One of our biggest missions is to bring in a more diverse group of students to our programs.”
Former Union Board director and member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity Ron Gilbert — who is participating in the event this year — said the endorsement will help establish the Step Show as an IU tradition.
“It’s one of the main events of the year as far as the black community goes,” Gilbert said. “I think it’s great that the university is recognizing that this has been happening for the past seven years. Because it’s being sponsored, it’s now being seen as a tradition that’s going to be an essential part of the future.”
Despite optimism about this year’s turnout to the event on April 20 in the IU Auditorium, Padgham and Union Board are collaborating with other student organizations to further their mission to increase diversity at student events.
In collaboration with La Unidad Latina Inc., a traditionally Latino fraternity on campus, the two groups are organizing Noche Durada for April 6 in the Memorial Union.
The event will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of La Unidad at the IU campus, as well as an awards ceremony for student organizations that work to improve community unity and promote diversity.
“We got involved with the Union Board to help us make it a campus-wide event,” Eric Amador, a member of La Unidad Latina, said. “We wanted to recognize organizations that live through our pillars. Promoting diversity, unity and involved in community service.”
Amador, who admits to not attending many Union Board events in the past other than the Step Show, says the key for a student organization to reach out to a broader audience is its ability to work in a context that the audience already relates to.
“I think the key factor is speaking the language,” Amador said. “I can only speak on my experience in working with Kelsey, but it really seems like Union Board is striving to speak the language. For the Union Board to sponsor our event, it shows that they’re trying to be in our shoes.”
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