New Student Multicultural Coalition Aims to Make Broader Impact

Student leaders at a recent multicultural leadership training

Two students have partnered with Bowdoin’s dean of multicultural student programs to create a new coalition designed to strengthen the collaboration among the College’s many multicultural student groups.

Symone Howard ’15 and Evelyn Sanchez Gonzalez ’17, with Associate Dean Leana Amaez, are crafting the coalition to increase the impact of the groups on campus and to shine light on the diversity of the student body.

“Up until now, there’s been some collaboration, but student groups have been operating largely independently,” Amaez said. “By creating this coalition, we can really create a meaningful connection to shift campus culture and infuse this place with more diverse perspectives.”

Sanchez Gonzalez said she hopes to reach more students this year. “I want to create inviting programs because when I was a first-year, the multicultural programs created a welcoming space for me,” she noted. “My hope is to expand these opportunities to more people.”

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A list of groups that participated in the training

The new coalition’s first event was an introductory leadership training session at 30 College Street. It included all the student leaders of all the multicultural groups. “It was nice to see the leaders of these groups come together for the first time,” Howard noted. “Something like this has not been done before, at least not that I know of.”

Bowdoin’s multicultural groups are broad, reflecting the College’s desire to both create a home away from home for students from backgrounds historically under-represented at Bowdoin, and to engage all students in the variety of races, ethnicities, cultures, traditions and beliefs found within the campus community. This engagement will help prepare Bowdoin students to become culturally competent leaders in a world in flux. Bowdoin’s multicultural groups include the Native Americans Students Association, Asian Students Association, Korean American Students Association, Undiscussed, Bellydance, Taiko, Slam Poetry, Africa Alliance, African American Society, The Globalist, Students for Justice in Palestine, J-Street, Latin American Student Organization, Anokha and Amnesty International.

In addition, Amaez has hired several students to increase cooperation among the groups. They include, besides Howard and Sanchez Gonzalez, Ashley Bomboka ’16, student director for support; Matthew Williams ’16, student director for activism and social justice; and Yiran “Elina” Zhang ’16, student director for education and awareness.

Amaez opened the training session, which included quiche and coffee, by urging student leaders to form relationships with one another. “This brunch is to let everybody who belongs under this umbrella get to know each other, with the goal of generating energy and reaching beyond what people perceive multicultural life to be,” she said.

Student leaders also shared their goals for the year. Clarence Johnson ’15, of the African American Society, said he was most excited about “making conversation about race less taboo and to really engage campus.”

The student directors — Howard, Sanchez Gonzalez, Bomboka, Williams and Zhang — facilitated conversations in smaller groups about issues such as how to work together to raise more funds and attract more people to campus programming. Students discussed creating a logo for all multicultural groups to use to publicize events.

Sanchez Gonzalez suggested a biweekly dinner for multicultural student leaders, with elicited a murmur of agreement from others. Hassaan Mirza ’17, of the International Club and Anokha, said in response, “It’s hard to foresee what collaborations can happen so early in the year, so having a biweekly dinner would give us room to let these collaborations happen as clubs begin programming.”

Amaez concluded the training by opening her door to the student leaders: “My door is always open; use me as a resource and as a connector,” she said.

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