MLK’s service inspires graduate students of color

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Courtesy of the Association for Graduate Students of Color (AGSC)

Association for Graduate Students of Color (AGSC)

Dauntae Green, Lifestyle Editor

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day commemorates the birthday of the lead spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement who successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law. It is a day celebrated around the world, and also by organizations right here on the UW-Whitewater campus like the Association for Graduate Students of Color (AGSC).

“I think that specifically students of color need to feel like they belong, and anytime when you’re a minority. Most people in general look for people that look like them or that they have something in common with, and when you’re a minority you don’t find that often. I think that this is truly a community,” said mentor Sherry Simmons.

The group helps students to come together and connect with each other through their cultural experiences while supporting one another in pursuit of their careers. AGSC is trying to expand its reach to more students, bring in more members and show what they do as an organization that can benefit the community. Their purpose is to serve students by encouraging understanding of themselves while supporting professional advancement.

“We focus primarily on advocating for all students – whether they’re undergrad, faculty, staff or graduate students. The main purpose is sharing experiences in various cultures and just uplifting the voices of the students we serve,” said president Jeesenia Zavala.

The organization does many things for the students such as offering professional development events, supporting them through their academic careers and working with them to show them what to do after they graduate. 

“This past semester we had three events where multiple alumni come back and spoke on their professional life. There are spaces where there are difficult conversations, so just having that support system – knowing that they aren’t the only people going through different struggles, especially with COVID – is kind of having that support system within ourselves. Sherry especially works on our mentor aspect of that with professional development and helping us advocate for what happens after undergrad. So that’s the main purpose of the organization,” said Zavala. 

The organization is becoming an important resource for students and the UW-Whitewater community as the population of students of color grows on campus. In 2018-2019 students of color represented 9.1 percent of undergraduates and 11.6 percent of graduate students, according to the Institutional Research and Planning Annual Diversity Report. 

“One of the great things about Martin Luther King Jr is he’s all about serving. One of his focuses was that not every man can be famous, but every man can be great because every man serves,” said Simmons. “To me that’s what this organization is doing. Everything we do – it is intentional to serve the students of color. It is not only to serve those students, but to serve all students. And we don’t just put on a panel to check a box, or you know, do an event just to say we did it. We genuinely want to know what the students need.” 

Learn more about the Association for Graduate Students of Color on Facebook, Instagram or by reaching out to the organization through email at [email protected].

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