Article by Sidney Belleroche <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One look at any student’s email is enough to know that Ursinus holds a myriad of events, with an abundance of events that are sponsored by the Institute for Inclusion and Equity, otherwise known as the IIE. The office, the purpose of which is to aid the Ursinus community socially and culturally, is spearheaded by the current director Ashley Henderson.
Henderson, who will be celebrating her fifth year at Ursinus this coming January, is in charge of planning and executing the various events the IIE puts on throughout the year by collaborating with other groups in and outside of Ursinus. These groups include SUN (Sankofa Umoja Nia/Black Student Union), Seoul Korea, the Office for Latin Studies, and more. Henderson and her staff, one of whom is Ursinus alum Jasmine Soriano ’20, will be putting on even more events this semester and testing the water in refreshing established events. The Grizzly sat down with Ms. Henderson to discuss prior events, challenges facing the IIE, and upcoming announcements.
Last semester, the IIE expanded beyond the groups within Ursinus, bringing in groups such as Step Afrika! and the Three Soulful Tenors to perform their respective crafts. Students also had the opportunity to go to Philadelphia to visit Taller Puertorriqueno, a Latino art non-profit organization, and the ‘Wakandan’ Celebration. Events held on campus during this time included the annual senior dinner and Rite of Passage, the featuring of Latino art at the Berman Museum, and the ‘Moving bodies, making spaces’ series by the visiting Theater and Dance professor, Jeanine Osayande.
Organizing the large quantity of events is not easy, according to Henderson. “It can be hectic,” she laughed when asked about it. Some challenges listed by Henderson mainly boiled down to funding. “We have had to become very resourceful,” she said. “Collaboration with other groups and offices makes a lot of our events possible.” Other challenges mentioned by Henderson include the limited staff and the sheer time commitment it takes to put on an event. However, when asked about why she does it, she responded, “To see something come to life, see others get new perspective, is what brings me joy.”
Some popular events will be returning again in this first semester of the year. From October 4th to the 8th, the IIE will host the Coming Out Weekend to provide information about the LBGT community while incorporating bingo and board games. Various activities will also be to celebrate Latin Heritage Month, which started on September 15th and ending on October 15th. These include a Conversation Across Differences from ALMA (The Association of Latinx Motivated to Achieve) on September 28th. The reminders about these events and more will be emailed and posted on Ursinus’ calendar periodically.
Henderson states that the IIE has confirmed plans to bring back dormant events. These plans include bringing back the series, ‘Owning Your Identity in the Workplace’ for the first time in nearly four years. The series will focus on tips to help one succeed in the workplace and provide tools like professional photos and resume-building resources. Additionally, Ms. Henderson has confirmed that plans are progressing to offer a financial literacy course for students looking to improve their money management skills. Throughout the semester, there will be opportunities for students to explore experiences off campus, including leadership conferences and an internship at Pfizer through the office’s partnership with them. Perhaps most exciting for Henderson is a change to the SUN-sponsored event, Cafe Nia. Cafe Nia, which hosts student performers and speakers during a meal, is set to be held outdoors in the Kaleidoscope Plaza for the first time ever. Cafe Nia’s typical location in Lower Wismer will be the rain location. When asked what she would tell the student body, Henderson said, “The IIE is here to support you, and we want you to value yourself. The more we begin to value ourselves, the more we can extend that same grace to others. I’m excited to meet you this semester!”