Workshop Introduces New BlackNESCAC Campus Group

Workshop+Introduces+New+BlackNESCAC+Campus+Group

Ella Beiser, Assistant Features Editor

The BlackNESCAC workshop was led by Bates student Sabrina Mohamed ‘24 and Colby student Samah Mohamedzein ‘24. BlackNESCAC is a pilot program created by Mohamed and Mohamedzein to connect Black students at NESCAC institutions and advocate for them throughout college and after graduation. The program is a response to the trend of increased diversity at these institutions without addressing anti-Blackness at the institution.

BlackNESCAC will assist participants in accessing resources, internships and post-graduation opportunities. Additionally, they aim to draw attention to overlooked issues that Black students face at predominantly white colleges.

Workshop attendees discussed educational inequality at Bates in the form of material wealth, the ability to fly home to see family and hidden expenses of the college. At Bates 46 percent of students attended independent or private highschools according to Bates admissions, schools that are designed to prepare students for college-level courses which can put students on unequal footing on the first day of class.

In addition, attendees talked about how Black students at Bates often struggle to find support systems. None of the therapists through Counseling and Psychological Services are Black and the Office of Intercultural Engagement has had significant staff turnover.

Workshop attendees heard from alum Ellijah McLean ‘10 over Zoom who spoke about his experience as a Black man on campus and his struggle to feel welcome. He advised current students to hold onto connections with professors and friends and to keep academic and life goals in mind in times of uncertainty. He talked about how, following the height of the pandemic, Bates support for students of color was insufficient.

Speaking about his post-graduation experience, he believes that the academic and mental health support he received as an undergraduate should extend past graduation as students attempt to secure employment. According to the Center for Purposeful Work, 77 percent of the class of 2021 is employed, 14 percent are pursuing graduate or professional degrees, four percent are participating in an internship or fellowship and five percent are still seeking employment. 

BlackNESCAC aims to assist with the issues discussed in the workshop. They have four initial goals:

  1. Create an annual retreat at the beginning of the year for Black students
  2. Implement alternatives to study abroad where students are funded to create and implement projects in their own neighborhoods.
  3. Establish academic bootcamps for Black students approaching thesis, dissertations and fellowships. 
  4. Have a cord and pin at graduation to celebrate Black graduates. 

Mohamed and Mohamedzein are currently seeking executive board members for BlackNESCAC. Links to applications and upcoming events will be posted on their Instagram.