The Division of Retention and Student Success held one of its Men of Color Conversations Wednesday night. The discussion lasted for approximately an hour and was held in Orndorff Theater.
The female-identifying panelists were first asked why and how they support men of color.
K’Nya Holmes was the first to answer, noting that since Shippensburg University is a predominantly white institution, the voices of men of color need to be heard.
“We’re all human,” Holmes said. “Everyone deserves success.”
Executive Director for Retention and Student Success Professor Felicia Shearer, stated her firm belief in establishing trust and building relationships with students. She shared a story about a student she met who was struggling. After sitting in silence, the two connected because they both were not from the Shippensburg area.
The men of the panel were then asked to describe an experience they had of receiving support from a woman and how that felt.
Dr. Curtis Spencer, an instructor and advisor in the Department of Academic Engagement and Exploratory Studies, discussed how he shares a lot of these experiences with Shearer and Jennifer Hahn, Administrative Assistant of AEES.
He noted how they are consistently present and ready to listen.
When asked what supporting men of color looks like academically or in student retention, Shearer shared her experience meeting with Holmes. Her story emphasized resilience and determination, encouraging students and alumni in the audience to keep moving forward.
The same question was asked to Holmes, however, it was asked how their support looks emotionally.
Holmes discussed how she supports her brothers to the best of her ability. She noted that since men have trouble opening up, being there for them helps emotionally.
She also stated how she tries to be emotionally available for everyone and how we are all human and should treat each other as such.
Dr. Colin Campbell, a teaching fellow from the Frederick Douglass Teaching Fellowship, talked about how important it is to recognize the intersectionality that Black men face.
When asked about what advice the female-identifying panelists would give on supporting men of color, patience, trust and understanding were highly emphasized.
“Try to put yourself in their shoes,” said one panelist. “Try to understand what they’re going through; if you can’t understand that, you can’t fully support him.”
When the men of the panel were asked the same question, it was discussed how men are complex and it takes work to knock down barriers. The audience was advised to give grace and be aware that this comes with time.
The panel was then opened to the audience for questions.
One audience member asked how we can grow on campus together.
Associate Professor Dr. José Ricardo-Osorio, who was part of the audience, talked about how groups don’t change, individuals do, the groups change as a result. He advised the audience to step outside their comfort zone regularly.
“Our commonalities are more than our differences,” Campbell said afterwards.
The next Men of Color Conversations event will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 4:45 p.m. in CUB 224.