W&J Students Help Increase Inclusivity on Campus

Created: December 19, 2017
Last Updated: January 14, 2020

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By Maia Ervin ’18

WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 19, 2017)—With diversity steadily growing at Washington & Jefferson College (W&J), so does the need for inclusivity, and W&J students are ready to meet that need. Three student interns working with Assistant Dean of Student Life for Inclusive Campus Engagement Ketwana Schoos are helping ensure that W&J implements events and programs designed to make minoritized students feel more at home.

“It is important that underrepresented students do not feel like unwelcomed guests on this campus or that they were admitted just to add to diversity numbers,” Dean Schoos said. “Through working alongside multicultural student organizations and other offices on campus, the programs that these students offer to the entire campus community opens up dialogue that places matters of diversity and inclusion front and center.”

Genea Richardson ’20 works on diversity education, hosting Point of View (POV) discussions to educate the community about different minoritized groups on campus. These informal discussions focus on a social issue or an area of diversity such as race, religion, or sexual orientation. The meetings are held the last Sunday of each month in the Media Room and will return to the office’s programming schedule spring semester.

Taylor Grinage ’19 is the Cultural Heritage Month event planner, guaranteeing that various heritages and cultures are celebrated during their nationally designated months throughout the academic year.

“It’s definitely important that Washington & Jefferson College shows support for students [represented during] these different months,” said Grinage. “With W&J being such a small campus, it’s important to demonstrate that we’re working on growing and making everyone feel comfortable.”

Grinage loves to organize fun events to attract the interest of students and get them involved, but she hopes that her peers absorb one very important thing from each program.

“I want people to learn something,” Grinage emphasized. “And to take away the simple fact that our community is proud of everyone here and, more than just recognizing you, we celebrate you.”

With the success of the event held in September for Hispanic Heritage month, she hopes to keep the momentum going throughout the year.

David Alonso ’19, the Multicultural Student Support intern, works closely with the Charles West Scholars, a scholarship program for African American students on campus, by coordinating monthly meetings and providing a support system to minoritized students. Alonso also works with students from W&J’s partner YES Prep, a school district in Houston, Texas, focused on providing high-quality education to low-income communities. Alonso said that it is vital that students from underrepresented groups feel secure enough to call W&J a second home.

One example of the many ways Alonso hopes to make minoritized students more at ease on campus is that he and other staff members provided Thanksgiving dinner to the YES Prep students who could not make it home to Texas. “Everybody has culture. Everybody has traditions. We should share that,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is get these kids out there to show [the W&J community] who they are and why having them here helps everyone have a better experience.”

Although Alonso works specifically with people of color and/or from underrepresented areas, he hopes that his work can benefit the W&J community as a whole.

“The support that we are providing [to students] is going to make an impact in the future,” he said. “They’ll be able to go out there in the world and be the leaders.

Grinage and Alonso work with different aspects of the campus when it comes to increasing inclusion at W&J, but both students want their peers and faculty members to know diversity and inclusion are something to embrace.

“It shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the norm. It’s not,” explained Grinage. “One thing I really want people to know is when someone introduces a program that has anything to do with diversity and culture, it is not to cancel out what already exists, it is to add to it. And you should never be scared of that.”

About Washington & Jefferson College

Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.

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