Facilitator Corner: Keivon Gunn
FIUTS Facilitators are student leaders from all over the world who welcome new international students, help organize events, and lead activities for hundreds of students each quarter. Read on to find out more about the FIUTS facilitator experience from Keivon Gunn.
Name: Keivon Gunn
Country: United States
FIUTS Facilitator Since: January 2018
I’m from a small city called Euclid, Ohio, where diversity went as far as a singular aisle of international food which mainly consists of pasta noodles and ingredients for tacos. So my world was quite limited. As I move from Ohio to Seattle, I noticed that the Seattle Freeze was very strong and alive in the city. So I used my time to pursue volunteer opportunities around Seattle and on campus, with the first being a classroom facilitator for IELP where I met one of my good friends, April. She later convinced me to join FIUTS a year later.
FIUTS became the first stepping stone to other leadership opportunities on campus. The next opportunities after gaining valuable skills from being a facilitator were Unite UW and EFS CC. I became involved with Unite UW, which is a program offered by UW Student Life to promote cross-cultural connections with international and domestic students. Then I become an Early Fall Start Community Coordinator the summer after, where I was responsible for building a community among 110 incoming freshmen. Without FIUTS, I would not have imagined myself applying to either of these positions and successfully bringing people together from different backgrounds. Thankfully, I did because they were the best experiences I had at UW.
What does it mean to be a FIUTS facilitator?
Through FIUTS, I have grown as a leader and a person. The compliment that I hear the most from my other roles is that I create an inclusive and welcoming environment that makes others feel comfortable being themselves. It all started with my friend, April, convincing me to become a FIUTS facilitator so we both would be able to volunteer together. Then at my first event as a facilitator, I was quite shy and was very intimidated to speak to a crowd of people. Once I became more active, slowly the fear of speaking up transformed into my passion for volunteering and helping international students find their new home here in Seattle. Recently I was volunteering with another first-time facilitator and fully realized my growth. I had the same worries and the unrealistic comparison with a more experienced facilitator as she was having. Then I gave her some advice. One of them was to relax and do your best. I will be here to support her if she hit an obstacle. Then my second tip I gave was to keep pushing yourself and you’ll get better in no time. These two versions of myself are complete opposites. Even in a short nine months, you can go from timid to brave in social settings.
My role as a facilitator seemed like a very small contribution of time to me, but it created a huge impact for students. The gratitude and joy that FIUTS and their events bring to the Huskies that are from every part of the world are what I value the most. It motivates me to stay involved with this organization. I have completed over 100 hours doing a variety of things such as setup, mingling, initiating a conversation among students, clean-up, plus providing support for staff and other FIUTS Facilitators. The obvious challenge that comes with this role is the language and cultural barriers. Surpassing these barriers are what inspires the most valuable learning opportunities as a facilitator.
Favorite FIUTS anecdote as a facilitator
At FIUTS Camp, I was a Campetition leader where I had to facilitate the creation of a team name, flag and cheer with a group of international and domestic students. My favorite part was seeing the students were having such a good time playing all the games. This memory is my favorite because I was able to bring 15 students together to work as a team and support an experience that I didn’t get to have. You can tell that was one of the best experiences that the students had since coming to Seattle. Even now, they light up as they explain their experience and how lucky they felt being on my team even though we didn’t win. I highly recommend to any and all students to attend FIUTS Camp next year. It’s a ton of fun.
How have you grown as a leader through being a facilitator?
Through my experience with FIUTS, empowering others has been my focal point as a facilitator. I always strive to get other students from different cultures to come together and converse. I feel that both students will get the most meaningful connections and learning experience. When you promote people to get outside their comfort zone to talk to someone who is not from your country of origin, then growth for all parties will happen. They learn more about themselves and how their culture works.
Tips/comments for peer facilitators
Being able to step up and step back is the most important skill to learn as a facilitator. Even if you’re super outgoing and energetic, you have to step back from controlling the conversation to give room to the shier people a chance to talk. On the other hand, for those who are less outgoing, you have to step up to get conversations moving between students. Being a facilitator doesn’t always means leading, but inspiring others to take that leap of faith.