Symposium Welcomes First-Year Students, Builds Community

Students listening at Symposium for Multicultural Scholars

On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, 137 students checked in to the 2018 Symposium for Multicultural Scholars hosted by Multicultural Student Affairs. Symposium, held each fall the week before classes start, provides an opportunity for incoming first-year students from traditionally underserved backgrounds to connect with campus.

During the three-day program, students attended sessions about campus resources and services offered by various offices across campus. They met NC State staff, faculty and alumni through panel discussions, workshops and information fairs. Returning students welcomed incoming first-year students by volunteering during the program and attending social events. Sixteen student staff members served as guides for first-years by mentoring them during their first few days and sharing their tips for navigating NC State.

During the opening session, Senior Director of Campus Community Centers Reggie Barnes welcomed students by reinforcing the university’s commitment to their success and encouraging them to take advantage of NC State programs and services. Melissa Betancur, admissions counselor, served as keynote speaker and shared her story about being an undergraduate at NC State.

Once the program started, students attended sessions on topics such as resisting conformity, microaggressions, how to engage with student organizations, goal setting, and academic preparedness. Through informal discussion groups and meals, students built community with each other and other members of the NC State community.

Feedback from the Symposium post-survey indicated that students attended this event to find a community of people who identify similarly before beginning their college career as students of color at a historically white institution. One student said,“ I wanted to meet other people of color, knowing that NCSU is a PWI, and learn about the unique ways I can utilize all of the amazing resources at my disposal.”

Students highlighted their learning at Symposium:

“I got admitted to this university just like everyone else; I belong here.”

“I learned to be myself and not try and fit into the way society views me.”

“I learned how to feel comfortable in who I am and that it’s okay to not know who that is yet. I feel more confident about starting this semester and my overall journey at NC State.”

“I learned that I had a support system here. If I need help I know I’ll have a home at MSA.”

The experiences reported by Symposium attendees demonstrate the need for programs and resources that promote community building, sense of belonging and identity affirmation for students of color at NC State. The staff of Multicultural Student Affairs looks forward to continuing support for all students through intentional programming during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Photo: Brandon “Yance” Yancey, Symposium counselor, leading a breakout session during the 2018 Symposium for Multicultural Scholars.

Leah Young is assistant director for student transition and success in Multicultural Student Affairs. Erin Elliot is a second-year graduate student in educational psychology and a graduate assistant in Multicultural Student Affairs.

Symposium Keynote Speaker Melissa Betancur

Melissa Betancur

Melissa Betancur, a Colombian-American from Kings Mountain, NC, gave this year’s Symposium keynote address. Betancur graduated from NC State in December 2015 with a B.S. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. She is currently an admissions counselor at NC State who works to recruit and enroll prospective students, with a strong interest in the Hispanic/Latinx community. Her goal is to ensure that all underrepresented communities feel prepared and are successful as they begin their college search.