With Commencement just a few days away, Wittenberg's Concerned Black Students (CBS) is organizing and hosting the first-ever congratulatory dinner honoring students of color and those representing various nationalities. The dinner is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 7, in room 105 of the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning, 737 N. Fountain Ave., and will honor 26 graduates. CBS is planning to make the dinner an annual event.
Faculty Director of Diversity Julius Bailey, associate professor of philosophy, who has been working on diversity programming, explained that the event seeks to connect students of color with alumni.
"While pondering programs that have longevity and high-impact, this event was conceived as a no-brainer to build a stronger community between alumni and current students of color," Bailey said. "The ability to celebrate each other and the ways that we celebrate each other are important to the cultural aspect of graduation.”
Four special award recognitions will be announced during the event: the Perseverance Award, the Bridge-Builder Award, the Academic Excellence Award and the Pan-African Service Award. IMANI Gospel Choir will also perform at the event, which is one of three diversity-inspired social events planned this year. The first was a spring cookout, and a special Homecoming event is being scheduled this fall.
In terms of the dinner, Bailey also credits Ray Jones, audio/visual technician at Wittenberg, for helping with this new event.
“Ray constantly reminds me that President Frandsen expects all of us to be about the business of recruitment and retention, so when he suggested including alums in this Commencement event, it made so much more sense,” Bailey said. “Our 26 black graduating students is such a small number in the grand scheme of this graduating class that it is easy to get lost in the Commencement crowd as a student of color. But, as we’ll remind them, their small class is connected to similarly small classes over the decades and, as such, the 26 become exponentially larger, quickly. 'We need to build a family,' Ray told me."
Bailey added that he wants students of color to leave Wittenberg with a positive experience, and this is yet another way to add to that positivity.
“As the final activity of their undergraduate experience, we can leave them with that 'thank you God I am done,' or we can build a memory that re-binds them to a common experience, a shared narrative and collective successes,” Bailey said. “Hopefully this annual program will leave these alumni, and those following in their footsteps, with hope, anticipation and a renewed enthusiasm to pass the light, in the name of Wittenberg University.”