Rooted in Waynesburg’s mission statement, the new Diversity and Belonging Initiative which is run through the Pathways Center focuses on cultivating student growth through education and providing a support system for all.
With many components such as programming, a student advisory board and a leadership team composed of individuals from around campus, the program is hoping to make a positive introduction to the university community.
“We are called to love one another always, and especially as we prepare students to live lives of leadership and purpose for the glory of God. This initiative is truly for all groups of students at Waynesburg University; we want to see, hear and understand – and then act on that understanding to provide the best support for Waynesburg University students,” said Sarah Bell, Career Development Specialist, Study Abroad Coordinator and leader of the Diversity and Belonging Initiative within Waynesburg University’s Pathways Center.
Beginning in the spring semester, the conversation about implementing the Diversity and Belonging Initiative within the newly created Pathways Center was underway. Since then, the initiative has grown exponentially as it has made its way from a simple idea to reality. With the leadership team and student advisory board meeting on a monthly basis, the program has already developed immensely.
“Now that the fall semester is in full swing, you’ll start to see more programming and opportunities for the Waynesburg University community through the Diversity & Belonging Initiative,” Bell said.
For leaders of the initiative, the most rewarding part of this transition thus far is working with the student advisory board and student leaders.
“They are all so busy but have a heart for this initiative and service, so I am very grateful for them. I’ve also felt a tremendous amount of support from Waynesburg’s administration, as well as Waynesburg’s faculty and staff – especially from those who are serving in a leadership capacity as a part of this initiative. It really is a team effort between students, faculty and staff, and I think that’s a beautiful thing,” Bell said.
“Watching students become advocates for the underrepresented populations on campus. Having the opportunity to see students engage in these important, though sometimes difficult, conversations and then respond with action has been so encouraging,” said Courtney Balban, Disability Services Coordinator, Academic Support Specialist and Pathways Center Team Member.
With no requirements or specific requirements of students to become involved, it is recommended that students frequently check their emails as that is how a lot of information will be communicated this semester.
“All students are welcome to participate in workshops, open forums, book groups and other programming. We genuinely want to hear from students and for this to be a dialogue so that we can continue to improve what we’re offering and planning,” said Bell.
So far this semester, two programs have already been launched and have received great student feedback. The programs consist of a book group that will be reading “Just Mercy” and an International Pen Pal Program.
“I think this is an educational experience, but more than that, I think it’s a personal experience rooted in the University’s mission. I hope students can walk away from their time at Waynesburg University and feel like they had a place where they could be seen, heard and understood,” Bell said.
As for the future of this program, “I hope to continue to foster an environment of collaboration and conversation within this initiative and its associated programs. After we finish this first full semester, we’ll be able to assess what went well and what challenges we faced to determine what steps we need to take moving forward to best support Waynesburg University students,” Bell said.
The initiative overall is very far reaching and hopes to bring awareness and knowledge to many. “Often, when people think of diversity, they think race. And while that is a vital component to the conversation, it’s one part of a bigger conversation. The initiative includes many populations that are often underrepresented such as those with disabilities, LGBQT populations, veterans, etc,” said Balban.
The Diversity and Inclusion Initiative has already made a mark on campus and has a promising future making a difference in the lives of students and staff.
“I want to reiterate that this is truly an initiative for all students to feel supported and loved. Please encourage students to reach out to me if they have ideas or feedback – or if they just want to have a conversation about this,” Bell said.