Coming back from winter break can be hard- at least, it is for me. Three weeks of sleeping in, binge watching my favorite TV shows and eating my favorite home-cooked meals, makes it all the harder to come back to school. There are safe havens here on campus, however, that make the moving back process even more delightful.
The Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is one of those safe havens for me. The office seeks to create a community that is not only engaging for all students but also promotes an inclusive environment that makes students feel valued, respected and empowered. They have achieved this by promoting programs and services that will help students better understand the dynamics of diversity and engage with difficult conversations.
Personally, SDMA provides me with a welcoming space with endless support and learning opportunities.
One of the biggest ways this office has helped my transition from winter break into the new semester has been through their Women of Color group initiative. The Women of Color group is an initiative that was started by Associate Director of the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Yolehma Felican.
Once joining this group, I learned how Felican wanted to bring together faculty and staff at Fairfield to foster a space for young women to talk through the difficulties of simply being a woman of color on campus. Through this affinity group, one on one advising is set up for students to have a mentor through all their college years.
As a young woman of color myself, I understand the challenges that come with being a person of color at a predominately white institution. Even though I am a current sophomore student, and have transitioned back into this predominantly white setting a couple of times now, it unfortunately does not get any easier.
Each time I enter new classes, I am faced with the same challenge – being the only person of color in class. The Women of Color affinity group, however, has given me the space to talk with other students of color on campus about this challenge and grow from them.
Every meeting, we start off with ten affirmations that allow us to remember our worth, as this can sometimes be hard to remember. Writing down and saying affirmations out loud is not only empowering to myself but to the other women who are in the group. Hearing their affirmations allows me to gain more perspective on how beautiful and worthy we all are.
This group allows me the space to transition back into the new semester knowing I have people that support me. It allows me to connect to other students who I know experience similar challenges as myself and who will understand where I am coming from.
Another initiative from SDMA has been their podcast called “Diversity in Action”. This podcast is led by Director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Pejay Lucky. The podcast “Diversity in Action” encourages difficult conversations and communication through community partnerships. Every episode invites a member of Fairfield University’s community, whether it be faculty, staff or students.
Diversity in Action’s main objective is to foster a community that will build and lead a better world. The episodes embody all of the diverse cultures, identities and characteristics of the Fairfield population. Whether it’s having an episode play as I get ready for my day or just wanting to have something casual to watch, this podcast allows me to feel connected to the Fairfield community.
It should be noted as well that Lucky also runs the Men of Color Alliance, which provides men of color the same support as women of color.
Overall, SDMA continues to provide a space for students to feel welcomed in their transition into a new semester. The office itself is a space where students can go in between classes to focus on homework, grab a snack, a cup of coffee and talk to friends.
They offer countless opportunities for students to connect with not only other students, but faculty and staff members as well. During stressful times such as midterms and finals, SDMA brings in tutors from the library to help students with writing resources.
There are positive affirmations and posters on the wall as soon as you walk in that embrace a multitude of cultures. Simply seeing the faces of Felican and Lucky brightens up your day because they continuously show up and support students and create a welcoming environment in the office.
SDMA is hands down one of my favorite offices at Fairfield University. The friendly and welcoming environment makes this office one of my favorite places to visit as I transition back into the new year or semester.