Yolehema Felican ‘12 has been named Director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Felican replaces Pejay Lucky, who now serves as the Assistant Dean for Student Success at Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Campus. As a former Fairfield University student, Felican will be the first alumna to assume this role.
“This promotion is personal,” Felican stated. “I unapologetically always talk about being the person I needed when I was a student here. So, it makes me look at things with a deeper lens to see who’s not at the table.”
As the new SDMA Director, Felican remains committed to inclusive excellence. She uses her platform to ensure that every student feels supported, stating that she works “tirelessly to amplify student voices to say, ‘This is your school. I’m here to serve you to make your experience the best experience possible.’”
Aliyah Seenauth ‘24, Fairfield University Student Association Vice President, reflected on Felican’s mentorship. “Yolehema has been a mentor to me since my first year. In my struggling times as a woman of color on this campus, I have turned to her for advice and guidance.”
Seenauth values Felican’s unique perspective as a former Stag. “She was also once a student at Fairfield and I find that learning from her experiences has been helpful. Yolehema is a powerhouse and it is so great to have a female lead in SDMA. I’m looking forward to all she will accomplish in her new position as director,” Seenauth said.
Felican recalled a lesson she learned in elementary school: “In the second grade, my teacher would always say, ‘show don’t tell when you’re writing something’. And I live off of that because you should show. I shouldn’t have to say, ‘you’re welcome here’ or ‘your voice matters’. You should just feel that and you should know that. So, we have to be doing the work actively in order for you to feel that.”
Kevin Camy, a member of the Class of 2026, expressed his gratitude for the positive impact Felican has had on his transition to the university.
“Yolehema was my Community Associate in my First Year Experience [course]. She always looked out for me and made sure I was exposed to and aware of every opportunity,” Camy said.
After graduating from Fairfield University, Felican earned her Masters in Social Work at Fordham University and previously held the role of Fairfield’s Associate Director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. As of Feb. 6, Karl Uzcategui will have stepped in as the Associate Director.
Previously, Uzcategui worked in the Office of Residence Life as the Area Coordinator for Faber and Claver Hall and later Dolan and the Townhouses. Most recently, Uzcategui was the Student Success Coach for Online Graduate Programs and is a Doctoral Student in Educational Leadership at Fairfield University.
“As a Fairfield local, first-generation college student, from immigrant parents, I value opportunities to engage with different cultures and customs. My hope is to promote an environment where community members can become comfortable being uncomfortable when engaging in identity exploration,” Uzcategui expressed.
Uzcategui continued by saying that “we all have a story that is waiting to be shared if you are willing to have an open heart and mind.”
The energy within the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs demonstrates the power of the faculty’s work in action. The office radiates a palpable sense of joy, a vibrant space with walls adorned with messages of inspiration. Students are encouraged to take advantage of their Open Door Policy and stop by the office to study, grab a snack and hang out.
Located in the lower level of the Barone Campus Center, the office regularly hosts programs that allow students to learn about the rich culture and identities of Fairfield’s student body. During the month of February, the office will have a series of events celebrating Black History Month.
On Feb. 16, there will be a showing of “One Love”. The film highlights the intersectionality and struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in Jamaica.
Felican discussed the Black History Lunch and Learn, which is “aimed to educate students about the African diaspora and learn how Blackness is shown through different cultures.” The event will be held on Feb. 21 at 12:00 p.m. in BCC 206.
The “Lyrically Black” Listening Party will follow on Feb. 24, enabling students to pair their love for music with an educational aspect.
This year marks the two hundred and second anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. In 1921, white rioters violently invaded and burned down Tulsa’s Greenwood District. Felician described the area as “an economic and cultural mecca.” The massacre caused extreme devastation, resulting in the destruction of Black homes and businesses. To honor lives impacted by this horrific racial terror attack, Reclaiming Black Wall Street will showcase the Black-owned businesses of Fairfield students and alumni. The event will feature vendor tables, displaying the incredible work of Black business owners within the Fairfield community.
The final event will be a performance by the ZuZu African Acrobats on Mar. 1 at 6:00 p.m. in the Lower Level BCC. The group hails from Tanzania, memorializing two thousand years of history through art and entertainment. Their gravity-defying stunts represent the beauty of the Bantu culture of East Africa. Audiences will be invited to engage with members of the cast and enjoy a show that includes human pyramids, contortion and comedy.
Felican underscored the importance of acknowledging Black history beyond this month’s celebrations. She emphasizes the necessity of recognizing diversity on a personal and institutional level.
“If you want to learn about Black history, don’t only take the opportunity to learn about Black history in February. Seek out other opportunities to learn about Black history that are independent of, or that are outside of February particularly,” Felican said.
The onus must not be placed solely on individuals and organizations already doing the work, but on the entire population. “This is all of our jobs … to be in community and to be in solidarity with the Black community on an everyday basis,” Felican stressed. “We want to make Black history part of our routine here at Fairfield, but also in America.”
It is evident that the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs will continue to initiate meaningful progress in the pursuit of equity on Fairfield’s campus.
In her new role, Felican inspires others to remember, “Black history is a part of every day, but we need to actively incorporate it into our everyday. I think if we do that, we’re going to be [moving] in the right direction. Once you start to weave that into your every day, that’s when things are going to change. It’s kind of like making those small steps for that great impact every single day.”
For more information, students are encouraged to visit the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs in BCC 100. Details about upcoming programming will be posted on Life@Fairfield and on Instagram @StagDiversity.