By Kathleen Ramirez |Staff Writer|
Dr. Terrell L. Strayhorn discussed the purpose of education and reminded us that we all have a sense of community in his keynote speech at the I Just Want To Belong event.
The Student Engagement Center first wanted to target student employees to discuss the different skills one can gain from working with a diverse group of people.
“Our goal was to make sure that when the participants left they understood the difference between belonging and fitting in, knowing what the difference is and being able to identify in the community they are in,” said Program Supervisor Natalie Cleary.
Director of the Student Engagement Program, Fred McCall, expressed at the beginning of the event about how this cause was very near and dear to his heart. He shared that he was happy to have such a great turn out.
The Student Engagement Center also wanted to assist student leaders with maintaining inclusiveness within their organizations so that people do not feel out of place.
Lastly, they wanted to focus on academics in general, and teach students them how to use inclusive classroom dialogue for the benefit of themselves and others.
“I remember being a college student at the University of Virginia and struggling to find my footing and belong, fit in, college is a scary time for all students but particularly for students who come to a campus that is different from where they grew up,” said Dr. Strayhorn.
Strayhorn is a professor at Ohio State and travels around the United States, visiting over 300 schools a year, on average.
“The fact that I get to conduct research and do public talks that help campuses create better environments for students keeps me motivated to keep doing it,” said Strayhorn.
When students feel like they fit in and belong to something bigger on campus, that is when they will excel and succeed.
“Feeling a sense of belonging on campus is a core reason why students are retained and ultimately graduate, so finding your place on campus and finding a sense of community is just as important as academics,” said program coordinator Misty Levingston.
I Just Want To Belong had an auditorium full of staff and students with active participation during and after the event.
All attendees broke into groups and brainstormed how to enact the skills they learned after Strayhorn’s speech.
“After the event people were still lingering around talking about how they can put the skills they learned to use so I do feel like the event was beneficial to everyone,” said Program Coordinator Monica McMahon.
Cleary said, “if someone does not start the conversation, change to create a more inclusive environment will never happen.”
Cleary believes that since CSUSB is such a diverse school, this event is a major step in making sure CSUSB is more inclusive in all of its programs.
“We wanted to make sure when the participants left they understood the difference between belonging and fitting in, knowing what the difference is and being able to identify it in the community around them,” said Cleary.