Meeting Josh Grice, ’14, today, you wouldn’t know that he struggled with his cultural identity for several years. Half Filipino and half white, he grew up in the U.S., where he “didn’t have many opportunities to identify with the Filipino side,” he says.
“I felt a sense of shame because I didn’t know the language and the native customs,” he explains, “so communication with my grandparents was kind of severed, and it wasn’t as strong as I’d like it to be because of that cultural gap and generational gap.”
He describes the confusion he felt growing up as “a cultural identity crisis.” Other than writing about it in college admission essays, “It wasn’t something I really expressed, but it was always the undercurrent of my life,” he says.
Before new-student orientation his first year at the University of Richmond, Grice took part in a multicultural pre-orientation program that connected him with support networks on campus, including faculty mentors, a diverse group of friends, and offices like the Career Development Center.
The conversations and exercises during the program encouraged Grice to dig deeper into his cultural identity. “We talked about how to identify our race, what it means to be multicultural. It helped us express those insecurities,” he says. “I learned how to be myself and not try to force some sort of cultural identity — which I can still experience and love, but I don’t have to actively immerse myself within.”
Now Grice looks to his Filipino heritage as a way to bring him together with other students, including some who are from the Philippines or mixed-race like him. It also motivates him to seek inclusivity in all of the student groups with which he is involved, giving him a sense of belonging in the “diversity of cultures and personalities” that he has found in each.
At the conclusion of the pre-orientation program, “They told us, ‘You guys need to be catalysts for diversity — not just identifying with people that you know, but you need to be the change on campus,’” he recalls. “That’s what stuck with me and helped me in branching out to people.”
So in his first year, Grice dove into campus life through InterVarsity and pep band, among other groups. He also found outlets for his passion for film through working as a videographer for the University’s athletic department and academic advising center, and — to his surprise — in class.
“Coming to UR, I had no expectations of taking a video class,” Grice admits. But his first-year seminar, taught by faculty members from the business school and the art department, reignited his interest in film by exposing him to an interdisciplinary approach. “It was so cool to see how those two contrasting professors could come together to create a class on media. So I was like, ‘I could do something like that.’”
Grice is now preparing for a major in business while also taking a number of classes through the University’s one-year-old film studies program. The fact that “the University sees the need to expand that facet of education” is exciting to Grice, since “it’s something that’s becoming a greater part of my life.”
Grice credits the CDC and Academic Skills Center with connecting him to resources and people on campus that “spiraled into more opportunities.”
One of those opportunities — lending his production skills to help promote International Month this November — is bringing him full circle, back to the issues of diversity and inclusivity that gave him the confidence to take on his first year in college with such momentum.
“We’re trying to get a [greater] variety of people to come out — not just minorities,” he says. “If we promote it more effectively, then maybe we’ll get a higher turnout."