Rutgers celebrates diversity, inclusion with 3rd annual Access Week
Over the course of a week, Rutgers hosted a series of events focused on the benefits of diversity on college campuses.
From Feb. 13 through Feb. 18, the Department of Student Access and Educational Equity (SAEE) at Rutgers hosted a series of free events focused on diversity, according to their website. The series was dubbed Access Week and events ranged from film screenings and lectures to volunteer trips.
The department planned these in order to provide students with the resources to succeed and help create a feeling of inclusion for students that are part of groups historically underrepresented in higher education, said Jakora Holman, director of Planning and Operations for SAEE.
“We partner with other departments to help bring the issues that students face to the larger campus community,” Holman said. “Inclusion will make them feel like they are valued in the campus community and that’s very important in helping them stay in college and graduate.”
To help create this inclusion, organizers tried to pick speakers that connected with issues that they knew students faced, he said.
On Wednesday, journalist and immigration rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about navigating issues like identity and employment as an undocumented immigrant. The presentation spoke directly to the concerns of many Rutgers students who are undocumented, Holman said.
The most popular speaker was journalist and activist Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, who spoke on Thursday.
Tiana Ford, a student at the Graduate School of Education, said Hill expanded her idea of what inclusion looked like. He addressed issues facing black and Hispanic people, as well as those facing members of the LGBTQ community and individuals of Middle Eastern descent.
Hill advised students to “diversify their diversity," she said.
On Friday, SAEE took a group of Rutgers students to Plainfield elementary schools to read to the youth as part of National TRIO day, a day dedicated to performing community service, according to the Rutgers—Camden website.
At Saturday’s Men and Women of Color Symposium, the crowd was filled with high school students participating in the Upward Bound program run by SAEE.
The program provided a great opportunity for students to see that college is a safe, inclusive place, Ford said.
Saturday’s symposium consisted of two career development workshops run by Rutgers alumni and a keynote address by Symone Sanders, former press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Symone Sanders was the youngest press secretary for a presidential campaign on record. The symposium focused on how ethnicity and background can affect identity as well as how to market oneself to employers and develop a career.
Rosanna Reyes, who earned three degrees from Rutgers and was employed by SAEE for several years, led one of the workshops.
“We need to be exposed to different issues and to learn about experiences different than ours. The resources we have in college are a privilege and I think we can sometimes forget that and get stuck there,” she said.
Reyes said she believes by exposing students to different ideas, they are more able to bring those ideas back to their communities. She is also proud of the safe spaces SAEE has been able to make for underrepresented groups.
Many Rutgers students who take part in other SAEE programs also participated in Access Week. One of these students, Jessica Dufort, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and a participant in the McNair Program, came to Saturday’s symposium after receiving encouragement from the McNair Program, she said.
“On the campus’ part it’s important to make that safe spot for a student because they can’t feel comfortable unless there’s that comfortable ground,” Dufort said.
Kimberly Peterman is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.