Just a few days before classes started here at NC State for the 2015-2016 academic year, something unprecedented was occurring in Witherspoon Student Center, and that was the Symposium for Multicultural Scholars. Compared to years previous, this unique symposium was designed intentionally by Multicultural Student Affairs to unite the new students that they serve, currently Hispanic/Latino, Native American and African American students. Nelson Santiago, Assistant Director of Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs and also one of the key architects of the this year’s Symposium, said, when asked about some of the initial plans, “We got plenty of input from those who had attended Symposium in the past just to ensure that the student experience was optimum.” In years past, separate Symposium sessions were held for each underrepresented group but this year, Multicultural Student Affairs aimed for a stronger and more consistent experience that combined all multicultural scholars.
Many sessions focused on academic success (i.e., HIP HOP: “High Impact Practices and Opportunities” and understanding the university’s networks) that all of the students benefited from. However, some of the most impactful sessions that students experienced were about identity and culture such as, “Who Am I?” and “GaDuGi (Working Together).” Daniel Richardson, a Native American freshman in Paper Science and Engineering, said that sessions such as these and “Brother-to-Brother,” whose counterpart is “Sister-to-Sister,” really helped motivate him personally by seeing other students who identified with similar backgrounds and ethnicities.
The attendance of this year’s Symposium actually increased on the last day of Symposium, August 14, 2015, showing that the new approach taken to welcoming the diverse students that arrive on campus for this program is working. While Symposium may have been relatively short, the friendships, knowledge, and impact will extend far beyond the 3-4 days that over 200 students spent together learning about each other’s goals, culture and heritage. The Symposium for Multicultural Scholars fulfilled its mission with a full heart and mind. It created and fostered a sense of community that will serve as a foundation for academic success on our college campus.
Rodney D. Strickland, ’18, is a Political Science major in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a peer mentor and Symposium counselor with Multicultural Student Affairs.