Black Excellence listening sessions give students a place to air their views – The Sunflower

The first Black Excellence listening session of the semester took place last night, giving Black students the opportunity to talk to faculty members about their experience and what they think could be improved. Members of the university’s equity task force were in attendance and said they plan to evaluate the data from these sessions to begin making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion. .

“It certainly helps the university as we look forward to making plans and executing our strategic plan,” said Alicia Sanchez, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “We recently launched the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, so your input is definitely a priority for us.”

The event featured panel discussions, with five faculty and staff rotating to a different table every 10 minutes. Faculty members were tasked with one topic, including general experiences and perceptions, student services, campus engagement, recruitment and admissions, and classroom experiences.

While the room was quiet at first, occasional voices and laughter soon filled the room. There were about 25 students present, with dinner served in advance.

In the ensuing discussion of the highlights of the conversations, Aaron Austin, Dean of Students, said there was a lot of emphasis placed on relationships and interactions with offices on campus.

Alexus Scott, coordinator of student diversity programs, said many students felt they had been sold a dream during the admissions process and the reality did not match.

“I think a lot of the things I saw and heard were students wanting to feel supported by their faculty members, not feeling like they felt included in their academic experiences or felt supported,” Bobby Berry , assistant dean of the college of applied studies, said. “Lack of representation was a common theme among the student body and their faculty members.”

Christina Freeman, a young business student, decided to attend after seeing her in the Black Student Union Group Chat. As a transfer student, she said she wanted to get more involved and see how other students felt.

“I’m new here, some of these people are here so I want to know how they feel and hopefully because they said they were going to use all this information, hopefully I can get them. see applied before I graduate in two years,” Freeman says. “I’m just really excited and to be more included.”

Freeman hopes these conversations won’t just stay within ODI, and that senior faculty will take advantage of them to improve student inclusion.

Jayden Johnson, a marketing junior, said one thing that came out of the conversations was finding a way to educate parents and students about the admissions process and put them at ease, because many students blacks are first-generation students.

“I came to this event today because, on the one hand, it’s one of the main chances I have to be around other minority students,” Johnson said. “Out of this event today, I came because I knew it was a chance to have our voices heard by people who actually have the power to effect change.”

Members of the Equity Working Group, including Terri Hall, Vice President of Student Affairs and Shirley Lefever, Acting Vice President, concluded the session by assuring students that this will not be the last time for conversations. and that they want to be intentional when addressing diversity related issues.

“We don’t want to lose you guys, do we,” Berry said. “We appreciate you and want you to feel valued, so the next step is to try to see what progress can be made in those areas.”

Scott said overall the event exceeded his expectations.

“I’m super excited about the feedback we got tonight,” Scott said. “The students really provided a unique perspective that was an eye opener for us tonight.”

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