UNCW Volunteers Serve Up Conversation, Cuisines

Friday, July 28, 2017

UNCW volunteers served up a cooking contest and conversation during a collaborative program with Wilmington’s LINC (Leading Into New Communities) Inc.

Members of “Team Winners” scurried around the kitchen as they prepared two dishes for hungry judges waiting in the LINC conference room on July 26. LINC is a nonprofit organization focused on helping people restart their lives after prison.

“Eight minutes!” UNCW Student Government Association President Ottillie Mensah yelled to her team.  

Nearby, Upperman African American Cultural Center Program Coordinator Emmanuel Mitcham and Centro Hispano Director Edel Segovia worked with LINC residents to plate meals.  In a separate wing of the building, UNCW Chief Diversity Officer Kent Guion helped his team, nicknamed “Coming in Hot,” add the finishing touches to their dishes.

The “Chopped”-style cookoff was a part of a community engagement outreach program organized by the UNCW Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Representatives from OIDI, the UNCW Police Department, SGA and UNCW Athletics spent the day with more than a dozen LINC residents.

Each team consisted of representatives from UNCW and LINC. They were given a basket with similar ingredients and 45 minutes to cook two meals, plate the food and present the dishes to the judges, who awarded points for presentation, flavor, creativity and ingredient usage.  Both teams put their own twist on shrimp fried rice and chicken quesadillas, and the competition ended in a tie.

Residents and volunteers also took part in small group talks, team-building activities, games and a tour of LINC’s garden.

“We decided as a group to make a bigger impact with our community service by involving our entire unit and inviting others on campus. This is our first effort to do that,” said Guion. “We reached out to several community organizations and asked how we could assist them and LINC was the first to give us some ideas.”

LINC executive director Frankie Roberts is pleased to see UNCW’s focus on increasing its engagement with community-based organizations.

“For us, it is empowering and what we would like to see, going forward, is more engagement by the university,” he said.  “I think our organization can benefit from the knowledge and diversity that UNCW has and from the students who come there from all over the world.”

Prior to the cooking contest, UNCW Diversity Specialist Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith led an exercise that encouraged participants not to allow others to place labels on them. 

“People will place labels on you instead of you placing your own self-identity,” she said. “Owning your own identity is vital. Don’t give someone else that power.”

-- Venita Jenkins


OIDI Community Engagement

OIDI Diversity and Inclusion Partnership Liaison Cheryl Sutton (left) LGBTQIA Resource Office Program Coordinator Brooke Lambert (center) and UNCW Student Government Association President Ottillie Mensah (right) present dishes to judges.