IUP creates display to help every student feel welcome

INDIANA, Pa. — Tedd Cogar’s many roles at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania include being a support staff for LGBTQIA+ students. He kept hearing feedback that not everyone felt represented on campus, and he took it to heart.

“A group of students, faculty, staff, really walked around and looked at our buildings and spaces to determine what would help them feel more comfortable,” Cogar said.

A large rainbow sidewalk was borne out of that so-called walking audit. It’s Cogar’s design, and it guides students onto campus between Stapleton Library and Jane E. Leonard Hall. The display is for everyone, visitors included, to see themselves as the diverse building blocks that make up a solid foundation of higher learning.

Cogar told Channel 11 that the design inspiration came from an unexpected place. Looking at it from an aerial view, you can see it’s designed after the video game Minecraft. The colorful blocks become incorporated into the rainbow, progressive and Philadelphia flags.

“It was so important for me in particular to include the black and brown stripes for that minority community within a community,” Cogar said.

The display also features splashes of white, pink and light blue.

“The trans flag being incorporated into the progressive flag design was so important as a space for all of campus,” Cogar added.

He said that even if a student does not see themselves in the walkway, he hoped they’d see a friend or a family member.

Students like the display.

“I think it was just a big moment for everyone. It helps everyone, no matter what, feel welcomed,” said IUP senior Skylar Sobanski.

“There is just an air of tolerance here where everyone supports each other, and people celebrate the differences that are seen on campus,” added IUP graduate student Oulimata Diedhou.

Cogar said college is a place of learning, where students find themselves and their identities. It is a place where young minds can grow and engage in dialogue, even if they disagree.

“We’ve had the free speech project. We welcome diverse opinions, and we welcome learning together. It’s not a place for any one particular viewpoint to be dominant,” Cogar said.

Cogar said IUP is growing and evolving too, with gender-inclusive housing and the addition of all-gender restroom locations and more visible signage.

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