More than 260 black Southern Illinois University Edwardsville students walked into Morris University Center’s Meridian Ballroom Wednesday, Aug 29 to the beat of live drummers, bursts of applause and smiling, welcoming faces.
Drummers led the parade, followed by SIUE emeritus professor and former administrator Johnetta Randolph Haley, and then hundreds of honored guests, who made their way through human makeshift lines of cheering SIUE administrators, faculty, staff and community supporters. Altogether, the reception drew more than 400 people.
“Students, look around this room,” said Kathryn Bentley, co-chair of the Black Student Welcome Reception Planning Committee, director of SIUE Black Studies Program, and associate professor in the Department of Theater and Dance. “This is your village! We want you to talk to each other. Meet at least one faculty or staff person, and make at least one friend.” Co-chairing the committee with Bentley was Tarsha Moore, assistant director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.
“This is an exciting moment for SIUE,” Pembrook told the crowd. “Last year, when we had our biweekly dialogues on diversity, one of the things I heard is that black students sometimes felt isolated on this campus.”
“Speaking as the chancellor of this University, and I can speak for the faculty, staff and members of our community, we do not want you to feel isolated. We want you to feel part of the village.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this before at SIUE,” said Robin Jenkins, a senior majoring in secondary English education. “It’s truly wonderful.”
Mario Sanders, of Kankakee, a freshman majoring in computer science, said he believes he will love attending SIUE. “It’s a great way to start the year. I feel comfortable and very welcomed.”
“I don’t have the word for it,” gasped Braxton McCarroll, a senior majoring in business marketing and management. “There is such a sense of belonging here. It is such a beautiful display of melanin. I feel safe and welcomed!”
“This event was nothing shy of amazing,” said Lakesha Butler, PharmD, BCPS, clinical associate professor in the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmacy Practice, and BFSA president. “It was a momentous evening showcasing our chancellor and University’s commitment to creating an inclusive campus for our black students who can often times feel isolated.”
“Now, they know they have a village of people who are rooting for them,” said Butler, “and are here to genuinely support them to the finish line of graduation and beyond.”
SIUE’s Kathryn Bentley welcomes the crowd to the inaugural Black Student Welcome Reception. Part of the reception planning committee members look on, including Tarsha Moore (left) assistant director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, and Michael Hankins, PhD, (right) visiting assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry.
SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook, PhD, (foreground) and Mary Jo Pembrook, PhD, SIUE East St. Louis Performing Arts Program piano teacher, enjoy talking with students.
SIUE black students enjoy a time of fellowship and food.
SIUE emeritus professor and former administrator Johnetta Randolph Haley greets students at the reception.