Tuesday October 3, 2017

Black Alumni Weekend 2017

Starting Junior year off right with a little Alum wisdom.

As a student at the University of Dayton, there are many things that I could learn from talking to the Alumni who come from near and far to speak to us on campus. However, as a student leader of a black student organization, there is even more I could learn from the accomplished black alumni that came to campus last month. 

I should begin by saying that as a first-generation college student, I often times rely on the advice and guidance of alumni and current faculty and staff rather than my own parents, simply because they haven't been able to experience college the way that I have.  Working with BATU and having the opportunity to see people who look like me doing successful things after college and coming together to support us has done so much for me as a third-year student. I'm starting to think about what my life will look like after college and how I can apply myself in many ways by taking advantage of my passions outside of the classroom. I'm starting to think about grad school and how I can prepare myself for the GRE. And of course, I'm thinking about how my salary might look like if I decide to go right to work or hold off until after grad school. These are all valid topics that I was able to gain more insight on thanks to the generous time that alumni dedicated to sitting and discussing ways in which they could help support us as students. The alumn-student connection was most definitely strengthened this weekend because sometimes it takes seeing "real humans" doing actual great work to be inspired in ways that you may never imagine. 

The alumni also wanted to know what the current social climate was like on campus, specifically with multicultural students. It was interesting to engage in a discussion about how the social climate may or may not have changed in certain aspects, but the mission of BATU has remained the same throughout the years--to unite all black students and other students of color across all aspects of the university. One thing we noticed and were able to take away from this conversation is that most people may feel as though Black Greek organizations may separate some students from the rest of the black student population, whereas in the past, there was always a time in which everyone could come together regardless of the organization that they were affiliated with, to celebrate and support one another when needed. This is a great area that BATU may now be able to explore as we move forward in understanding the black student population better and to understand the social dynamics hat many other students may experience if they do not feel welcome or included within the greater multicultural community. We were able to gain more knowledge on the history of BATU itself and the past experiences of alumni in being an even smaller population of black students on our campus. Some alum shared that there used to be "racially self-segregated" lunch tables in dining places such as KU and Marycrest, and that struck most of the current students because that is a social dynamic that we do not necessarily experience on a daily basis. They also shared that groups of friend were more connected back then and would all go to their meals at the same time daily, however, I probably get together to eat with a large group of friends no more than once a month. These examples just demonstrate an equilibrium of social changes that have occurred on campus that could be perceived as both good and bad things. 

I also learned that the alumni had, at one point, a self-edited and printed newsletter titled The Black Perspective, and it was centered around giving black students a voice on campus and highlighting their own accomplishments that they were not seeing in campus-wide news outlets. I was shocked when I found this out because I had never heard of such a thing, and I had just been talking to close friends and BATU exec members about starting a publishable newsletter for black news and voices. To hear that there was something similar started years before I got to UD and that it was basically lost in history until now was unreal. It was crazy to me that it was not even apart of the OMA legacy, but I knew I had to do something. So, I decided that I would bring this back for our students to have today, to give people the opportunity to write and tell their story, and to bring life to the black students who have opinions and testimonies to share with the rest of the UD community. 

More on the reigniting of the Black Perspective later...

But I have always said that mentorship is a key way in which those who have come before us can reach back and lift up those who need help, but to have the opportunity to see tangible effects of hard work and dedication to your passions, to understand that there are, in fact, black individuals who have left UD and done amazing things and that I will always  have them as a resource is invigorating. It is refreshing to know that, even though I am a first-generation college student, there a handful of educated, black individuals who were once in my shoes that are so eager to help me in my journey. 

Black Alumni Weekend was such a rich and wholesome experience that I am glad that I got to be apart of and represent BATU so well during. This has given me the fuel that I need to start the semester off on the right foot, get through midterms in one piece, and move through my Junior year with much wisdom at my disposal. 

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