Affinity groups plan to be in First-Year Orientation Week

By Olivia Montes
News Co-Editor

In preparation to welcome incoming first-year students to the Washington College campus for the 2022-2023 academic year, Director of Student Engagement Antoine Jordan ’12 and Black Student Union President junior Jonah Nicholson are planning to have BSU and other student-led affinity groups be an integral part of First-Year Orientation Week.

According to Jordan, after concluding First-Year Orientation for the incoming class of 2025 — his “first time planning and organizing orientation” in person through the COVID-19 pandemic — he noticed that there were “some gaps in offering more information about the overall student experience” on the WC campus.

“One of the areas that I really wanted to make sure that we emphasize in orientation sessions moving forward is that our incoming students — especially students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, [and] students from other affinity groups — know that there are affinity groups that identify in those areas that can be here to support them in their journey at WC,” Jordan said.

For Nicholson, while plans are still in development, they hope to have BSU and other affinity groups be present during Orientation Week, allowing first-year students to interact with group leaders. 

“I’m hoping it will be a part of the schedule where students would come…and they will sit in front of us [as] we explain who we are,” Nicholson said. “I really just want to put our faces out there so Black students know that they have allies here.”

Nicholson said that they will be meeting with Jordan for the remainder of the 2022 spring semester to build upon and finalize plans for BSU and affinity group sessions to incorporate into the Orientation Week schedule.

According to BSU Vice President junior Mariama Keita, having affinity groups and organizations be a part of Orientation Week is vital toward making incoming students’ “first-year experiences at WC…as memorable as possible.”

“I hope what they do get out of it is that they know that there’s a home waiting for them if they do decide to join,” Keita said. “[It’s about] having that resource available to them so they won’t need to feel as though they’re alone because there’s other students who have gone through the same thing that they have gone through.”

According to Jordan, for the rest of the 2021-2022 academic year, he will be reaching out to other affinity groups on campus, as well as coordinating with student leaders to brainstorm additional ideas for potential sessions during Orientation Week.

With this in mind, Jordan said that the goal is, alongside providing a safe and inclusive space for all incoming BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students to the WC campus, but also help them feel more comfortable in their transition to the next chapters of their life.

“It’s so important — especially coming to a small school that can be a little bit more homogenous than other schools — to know that those students immediately have a group of friends or network that they can go to for support, help and assistance, to know that they’re seen and that they’re heard and they’re not just sort of lost or drowned out in the fray of the new experience coming to college,” Jordan said.

“There are so many intersectional identities…and understanding that understanding more than your own experience [and] understanding why it’s so important to acknowledge…what different communities are going through helps to create a culture here that has empathy and passion for each other,” Nicholson said.

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