by Dawn March, Staff Writer
Almost 60 years ago, Saint Vincent College wouldn’t have had minority students, due to the extreme racism and segregation that parted most of the world. Today though, we see many different people on campus, of all races, backgrounds, and cultures.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this past week, The Review took a look at the different backgrounds of students on campus.
There are two active clubs on campus that deal with race and various cultural backgrounds. The Multicultural Student Coalition (MSC), and the International Student Union (ISU), are two clubs that Saint Vincent’s Coordinator of Multicultural Life, Jeff Mallory advises.
“Minority Student Coalition (MSC) is a club rooted in minority students on campus.”The club is open for any student to join, and is run by a five member executive board. Mallory explained that MSC completes many community service projects, coordinates Black History Month, and “also hosts the school’s Annual MLK Day of Remembrance Dinner and Celebration.”
The International Student Union (ISU) is a club rooted in the international students on campus. “They typically have cultural shows, and put on cooking expos,” Mallory said. He also explained the ISU gives back to the community as well by initiating and coordinating several community service projects.
Mallory, a Saint Vincent alum, Mallory explains his position is a “tri-fold position,” and explains he’s the faculty advisor to both the International Student Union (ISU) and the Minority Student Coalition (MSC). Along with being involved in those clubs, he is also a member of the academic affairs staff as an academic advisor, and is also an advisor for the SVC Opportunity/Act 101 Advisor program.
Mallory obtained the role when Dr. Osaro Airen departed from Saint Vincent. He explained former President Towey approached him about applying and interviewing for the position.
Being a student at Saint Vincent just shortly ago, Mallory does believe that the college has become more diverse. Saint Vincent College has about 160 minority students. “I believe that is undoubtedly a food number, but one that I hope will keep improving.” Mallory explained that the number of minority students has improved since he graduated in 2006, but feels that there is always room for improvement.
“The biggest struggle in getting more minority students to Saint Vincent College is simply spreading the word,” Mallory said. “Not many colleges offer such an accommodating and outstanding atmosphere for growth such as Saint Vincent College.” Mallory believes that the fact that there is even a minority advisor on campus, along with the staff and faculty of Saint Vincent, make it a good situation for minority students.
“Many students I talk to in high school levels are simply unaware of Saint Vincent at times, and what is may have to offer furthermore. Once they are on campus for visits, they are able to clearly see what Saint Vincent College has to offer.”
Mallory is from a rural farming area in Southwestern Virginia, and explained he was “the complete opposite from many of [his] minority and non-minority friends.” Although he had to make adjustments to his time management skills, outside of the classroom, he did not have any major problems fitting in.
Even though Mallory “fit in” as a college student, he does offer help for those students who may struggle with cultural adjustments. “I lived in Spain for two years, so if it is an international student, for example, I may share a story or two on my own experience and adjustment to culture change.” He also explained that he can share insight to minority students as well. “I simply make sure that students have all the essentials they need to succeed, and then we work on the relationship from there.”
Jenna Thomas, ISU’s secretary, is an American student from Ohio. Thomas explained that ISU gives international students a chance to “come together and spread their culture.” She said she joined ISU this year and got involved because she “loves culture.”
“My family is Lebanese and Greek and we are very involved in our countries’ culture. ISU gave [me] the opportunity to spread my culture and learn about other cultures too!”
Thomas enjoys learning about other cultures, but doesn’t believe SVC is very diverse. “My high school was more diverse.” Thomas thinks that bringing in speakers from different cultural backgrounds would be a good place for Saint Vincent to start becoming more diverse.
She believes there is a disconnection between cultures overall. “The world seems disconnected and prejudice. We need to work together to eliminate that. I know the payoff would be wonderful.”
Thomas said ISU has about 35 students involved, and is “rather balanced” when it comes to minority students and white students. She explained that everyone from the club puts a lot of effort in when it comes to meetings and events. “One way we help understand each others’ cultures is by cooking food from our own cultures. That way, we can all get a ‘taste’ of everyone’s culture!”
Thomas also explains that ISU welcomes students of all cultural backgrounds, and are “consistently trying to expand.”
Nerissa McCollin, a student from Trinidad, is ISU’s vice president, and is a member of MSC. She loves being involved with both clubs, but also agrees that the college could be more diverse.
“When you think of college, you think of all the different cultures and backgrounds you’ll be exposed to.” McCollin, though, doesn’t feel that Saint Vincent is all that diverse though, “given its size.”
McCollin likes being involved in both clubs because she can learn about other cultures, while people learn about hers, but agrees that there is still a disconnection on campus. “Sometimes exchange students ask why American students do certain things. If more ‘white’ students would join, we could all understand each other.”
She explains that if all races were to interact, there wouldn’t be questions about cultures. “We wouldn’t have prejudice and racism if everyone got more involved and learned about each other.”
Charmaine Jemison, an African-American student from Lawrenceville, says she’s involved with MSC, and currently holds the vice president position. She became involved when two students on campus approached her about joining. “I became involved with MSC through Alisha West and Reggie Butler. They were actually the first club to reach out to me when I was a freshman.
Jemison said as she matured, she was given the opportunity to become more involved with the club as a part of the leadership of MSC. Jemison said she took this opportunity “to be able to nurture diversity and help people understand the importance of it.” She also wanted to “reach out to all [types of] people.
She explained that MSC was almost like an “orientation” when she came to Saint Vincent, and helped her adjust to campus life.
Jemison, a junior, says that Saint Vincent is “somewhat” diverse, but believes that “SVC has come a long way.”
“I have seen is become a little more diverse as I go through SVC, but considering this day and age, it still has a long way to go.”
Jemison thinks Saint Vincent isn’t as diverse because of its location, and because of what touring students “see.” “For example, some people outside of Pittsburgh don’t know what Latrobe is or [where its] at, unless [they] are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.” She also thinks that when students tour Saint Vincent campus, they sometimes “the majority, not the minority.” She believes these are both reasons why Saint Vincent’s minority enrollment is low.
Mallory elaborated on Global Connections, an idea on campus to help students interact with one another on campus. The concept behind Global connections is really quite simple. It would be a day, or possibly a lunch, where students are encouraged to interact with other individuals they normally wouldn’t have interacted with. “In the cafeteria, individuals would be encouraged to sit at different [country] themed tables and have lunch,” Mallory explained. “While the [information] sheets on the countries would be a starting point, it would be hoped that individuals would share other thoughts and feelings, or have general interactions with someone they may not have previously known.”
Mallory thinks Global Connections would be a good start to ending mixed feelings about other people and cultures. “We can always learn from and off of each other.”