The Center for Diversity and Community (CDC) celebrated its four year anniversary at a first Friday luncheon.
Students and faculty shared lunch in the CDC to celebrate its beginnings and look forward to its future with new leadership and opportunities for growth and improvement.
Teagan McNary, senior political science and criminal justice double major, reflected on the impact the CDC community has had on her college career.
“Any time you’re having an event or there’s something you’re really passionate about…these students, these people are the ones that are going to show up for you and support you no matter what and I think that’s really important,” McNary said.
Lamont Sellers, Former CDC Director and current associate vice president for diversity said the CDC has seen major growth since its start in 2014.
“When I first came the space for the center was there, there was very little furniture in there, I had two graduate assistants at the time and there was very little activity,” Sellers said.
Progression was slow the first year, but the second year brought more activity, said Sellers.
“The programs that we were offering, the students that were coming through the center those that were just there hanging out, doing homework, having meetings, all of that really exploded in that second year and has progressively gotten better,” he said.
Since then, students have had opportunities through the CDC like attending the National Conference for Race and Ethnicity (NCORE).
“I participated in the NCORE and had the opportunity to travel to Texas with a few of the staff from the CDC,” McNary said. “It’s just really opened my eyes a lot and I’ve learned a lot in my time here.”
Ashley Charlie, first-year physical therapy major, said the CDC helped her make long-term friends.
“I’m actually from New Jersey so it was a big culture shock and I wasn’t sure where to go to find people so that’s how I ended up in the CDC,” Charlie said.
It has been a transitional year for the CDC as it hired a new director, Laura Chandler, in April after the position being empty for a semester. A new program coordinator, James Cooper, was hired in August.
“Dr. Chandler came in with a lot of energy and a lot of new ideas,” Sellers said. “So to see that leadership transition and new energy that’s there is great.”
McNary also said the transition between leaders has been positive.
“The students are embracing Dr. Chandler…and she’s phenomenal,” she said. “I think that Dr. Sellers left a really good legacy and a foundation to build off of and Dr. Chandler is doing a great job of picking that up and keeping that momentum going.”
McNary said the next step for the CDC is expanding.
“The same people are always up here and always attending the events and I think it’d be beneficial for the students, staff, faculty, the community of Vermillion as a whole to increase those events,” she said.
Sellers said he hopes to see the CDC continue to build its inclusivity.
“The University is in the process of our HLC, Higher Learning Commission, accreditation process, and a part of that is looking at our diverse population,” he said. “So how students of color are actually doing on our campus as far as recruitment, retention, and graduation rates.”
Those rates tend to lag behind the white majority at USD, but they’re being looked at intently, Sellers said.
Charlie said the CDC will continue to grow from here.
“We’re all helping, we’re all learning, so I feel like we tie in together as a complete circle and we get it done,” she said.