School belonging, social support, and a healthy developing identity continue to be very important predictors for success among underrepresented students. School belonging is the extent to which a student believes they are included, recognized, and engaged with school. Feeling a part of the university community may be a straightforward experience for many students, but it can be challenging for many others. Being in the minority can often come with experiences of feeling excluded, different, and like an “imposter.”
During college, underrepresented students may struggle with blending their academic/school identity with their cultural identity—an undertaking that may be easier for students whose cultural identity match that of the surrounding majority culture. Other barriers for belongingness also come from a history of one’s people not being welcome in academic spaces. These obstacles can prevent underrepresented students from visiting professors at their office, obtaining support from university services, or spending time on campus outside of classes. If you are an underrepresented student, do not underestimate the power of joining a student group, making friends, asking a faculty member to be your mentor, and/or connecting with your school in any way that is best for you. You belong here.
African-American students at Illinois State University have the opportunity to join the Black Student Union, a place for resources and a commitment to spread knowledge about African-American culture. The Black and Latino Male Movement also aims to understand and appreciate cultural diversity and is dedicated to addressing issues of concern to Black and Latino male students at Illinois State. For students interested in paying it forward, My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper are initiatives to address opportunity gaps faced by young boys and girls through mentoring and community driven projects. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is dedicated to public service for the African-American community. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority are historically African-American Greek groups who also work with the community. Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is an African-American sorority that aims to raise consciousness of their people and aims for unity and scholarship among its members. And the office of Diversity Advocacy offers multiple programs and resources for students. The Student Counseling Services Cultural Issues website also has multiple resources.
Illinois State University’s Student Counseling Services is now offering a Student of Color Process Group on Wednesday evenings. If you are interested in joining the Student of Color Process Group, call Student Counseling Services at (309) 438-8655 to schedule an initial appointment. The Student of Color group aims to provide a space for underrepresented students to process their experiences and encourage emotional and social support among each other. For more information visit the Student Counseling Services website or follow us on Twitter at @ISU_SCS.