Student Organizations & Initiatives Supporting Diversity & Inclusion

April 28, 2016

Lisa Smith-McQueenie

A message from the President's Office with Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion, Lisa Smith-McQueenie

This week the Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion, Lisa Smith-McQueenie, and I address student organizations and upcoming initiatives that support diversity and inclusion at Simmons. You will find there are many groups and organizations here that help ensure our campus is a welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.

Student Organizations

The rich fabric of the Simmons community has always been strengthened by our engaged and enlightened students. We appreciate how much student involvement contributes to our unique culture, and how their work reflects our deeply held values of equality, respect, and social justice for all.

Below are some of the student organizations that contribute greatly to our diverse campus:

  • Alliance – a social and political organization for the Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Allied community at Simmons. The Alliance provides a safe environment for the expression of human diversity, and respects confidentiality
  • ALANA Nursing Association – strives to foster a cultural community and enhanced network at Simmons encouraging pluralism on the part of faculty, administration, and the student body at large. It compliments the Nursing Liaison to address issues in the nursing community
  • Asian Student Association (ASA) – aims to empower students with Asian interests through activities in volunteering, workshops and plain old fun to expose and explore
  • Asian/American culture, identity and values to the Simmons College community as well as the community-at-large
  • Association of Black Social Workers – many SSW graduate students participate in the Simmons Chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers
  • Black Student Organization (BSO) – established by the ambitious, dedicated, historic, and motivated black women of Simmons College during the late 1960s. BSO's mission is to redefine sisterhood on campus while channeling its efforts to the outside community
  • Dotson Bridge and Mentoring Program – to enhance the educational experience and success of African American, Latina, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) students enrolled in the nursing program by providing academic, clinical, professional and personal support
  • Gospel Choir - Simmons Wheelock Ensemble – to increase awareness of different genres of music and to help the Simmons Community be involved spiritually and mentally
  • Hillel – the center of Jewish life on campus. Hillel holds social, educational, and cultural programs throughout the year for all students. Their goal is to meet students where they are socially, culturally and "Jewishly," and to help them continue their Jewish journey wherever they want to go
  • Like Minds Coalition – a student group committed to promoting a culture of inclusion that values and respects the diverse array of people, cultures, and human experiences. Like Minds strives to create a supportive environment on campus where individuals and groups are empowered to address a multi-issue agenda regarding issues around race, class, gender, and all other forms of social bias and oppression
  • Multicultural and International Student Organization (MISO) – a team of passionate, active undergraduate and graduate students with multicultural and international backgrounds. MISO’s goal is to provide a space for international students to celebrate, respect, and share each other's cultures with the Simmons community, and to serve as a support system for new and existing international students
  • Organización Latino América (OLA) – serves to educate and enrich both the Simmons and outside community by organizing events that represent the Latino community achieved through art, music, food, lectures, or other activities
  • Simmons College Islamic Society (SIS) – a student organization focused on establishing a comfortable environment for the Muslim community within the institution. It not only works to meet the social and religious needs of their fellow sisters and brothers, but also works towards meeting the needs of their religious, and non-religious communities at large
  • SLIS – home to several multi-cultural organizations within the school:
    • Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) – a non-sectarian group committed to the ideals of progressive librarianship, and the notion that a fundamental role of libraries is to promote the free exchange of ideas and information for all people.
    • Spectra – LGBTQ group that brings together individuals who share interests in issues that affect the LGBTQ community in the profession of library science.
    • Students of Color @SLIS – was created in response to a greater sense of community among graduate students of color at the SLIS. Its mission is to build a supportive environment for graduate students of color.
  • Students of Color Inclusion Council – a group of involved students formed in 2015-16 to advance the policies and procedures addressed in the Ten Demands.
  • Simmons College Sexuality Women and Gender (SWAG) Center – a student-run college community organization dedicated to increasing awareness about health and social issues concerning members of our community. SWAG creates a safe and inclusive space that supports and empowers every person, and educates its members and the community on issues around gender and sexuality. SWAG fosters multiculturalism and celebrates the differences in every individual.

Special Events

Here are some of the special events and activities that we believe brings our campus closer to the inclusive environment we all want it to be:

  • Campus Conversation of Race (CCOR) – a six-week, student-facilitated program about race in the United States and on our campus. CCOR is a great way to start exploring ideas of race and get to know other people who are also interested in this important topic without adding a class to your schedule
  • Campus Forums (monthly/periodic gatherings) – a series of community meetings in response to the expressed need for an opportunity to come together proactively to address pertinent issues (not only in response to crisis or tragedy). Proactive or reactive, these gatherings are intended to provide a communal space for us to share, grow, learn, and support one another as a community
  • Colors of Success – an Annual Multicultural Reception, held twice this year in response to a request from students. Colors of Success is an opportunity to bring the Simmons community together in the spirit of welcome and inclusion to kick off the school year. It is an opportunity for first-year students to meet each other as well as an opportunity to meet returning students, staff, and faculty. Finally, it is an opportunity for Simmons to continue its commitment to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive community both in thought and in action
  • Diversi-teas – a Like Minds Coalition program designed to gather people together in an informal setting to discuss current and relevant issues on the minds of students
  • First Year Appreciation of Cultural Experiences (F.A.C.E.S.) – a required session during first-year orientation, F.A.C.E.S. has the following goals: to develop a greater understanding of and appreciation for diversity and inclusion in the Simmons community, especially as it impacts the individual student; to develop lessons which have practical application to student/community interactions within the classroom and throughout their co-curricular experiences
  • Like Minds Coalition Retreat – an annual retreat, providing an opportunity for students to gather off campus, recharge, engage in community building & collaborative conversation, and to learn about important life topics in a stress-free, supportive environment
  • Student Multicultural Leadership Conference (SMLC) – a conference hosted by the Like Minds Coalition each spring semester, providing workshops, activities, and speakers that explore inclusive and multicultural leadership. All students are encouraged to attend the programming. Most of the workshops and sessions are led by students, while some are facilitated by faculty and guest facilitators
  • Talking on Tuesdays – an educational series designed to address the pertinent issues facing college campuses in and outside of the classroom. This year the following subjects were discussed:
    • Bystander Awareness Training
    • Creating An Inclusive Classroom
    • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do
    • Culture on Campus: Reducing Unconscious Bias
    • Webinars – a series of relevant webinars were presented to the campus community featuring local and national experts on the following subjects:
    • Responding to Racism on Campus Penn Summit Series
    • Racial Climate on College Campuses
    • Project Inclusion: Institutionalization of Inclusive Excellence and Student Success

Upcoming Initiatives

Thanks to the hard work of many students, faculty, alumnae/i and staff, we are proud of the progress we’ve made on the issues of diversity and inclusion in the five short months since the Ten Demands were presented. We recognize that these issues are not new, and that they need to be at the forefront every day we set foot on campus. We want to recognize the hard work of our community related to the Ten Demands that have taken place since November. There remain some initiatives that are still in the planning stage, with implementation coming as soon as the fall 2016 semester.

  • Alumnae mentoring program – both the diversity committee of the alumnae board and the African American Alumnae/i Association (AAAA) will work with the College to create and maintain a mentoring program for students of color
  • Peer mentoring program – members of affinity organizations (and others) will serve as peer mentors for incoming students of color (and self-identified first generation students)
  • Multicultural programming through the Zora Neale Hurston (ZNH) Literary Center – the ZNH Center will serve as a conduit for diversity and inclusion related programming and resource gathering
  • Pre/post orientation experience for ALANA students – additional onboarding activities and resources designed to improve the experience of students of color as an early retention initiative
  • Multicultural Center – a committee representing various constituencies will develop and execute the plan for the establishment of a multicultural center on campus

We tried to include all the student groups, organizations, and activities in this list, but on such a busy campus we recognize we may have overlooked some. If you have a group or program that is engaged in diversity and inclusion activities that does not appear on this list, please let us know.

Simmons strives to be a place where every individual can participate in and feel that they are a valued member of the community. If you believe that having additional activities or other, new organizations at Simmons would help us advance our shared diversity and inclusion goals, we encourage you to present your ideas to the Office of Student Affairs.

We are grateful to all of you for working to make our community more welcoming for everyone. We are proud of the progress we’ve made, and remain resolute in our commitment to continued progress on these important issues.