Amplifying BIPOC Student Voices: Discussions on Racial and Social Justice at FAU
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions of higher education have experienced various challenges, including transitions to online learning and adaptations to the delivery of campus services. Students, faculty, and staff alike have navigated feelings of anxiety and stress amid these uncertain times. Further, students that identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are navigating two pandemics: COVID-19 and systemic racism. This reality presents an important question: How are university systems working to address racial injustice and support BIPOC students?
On Monday November 2, 2020, the College of Education (COE) Student Achievement Council (SAC) at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) collaborated with AACTE’s Holmes Scholars Program and the COE Diversity Committee to host a student outreach event with the purpose of addressing the aforementioned question. The three-part virtual presentation consisted of a welcome from COE Dean Stephen Silverman, a panel discussion with FAU’s Holmes Scholars, and an open discussion with all attendees of the event.
During the panel discussion, my fellow FAU Holmes Scholars and I discussed ways that we are linking our passion for racial and social justice to our scholarship, including current research projects and professional conference presentations. We shared common challenges that we have experienced as BIPOC students and considered ideas for outreach that may serve to further engage BIPOC students in our community. Additional themes of the conversation included the importance of mentorship, transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness to foster connection within FAU as an institution and within the COE.
As a Latina counselor and counselor educator-in-training, I wholeheartedly value working in a profession that centers diversity and equity in education and practice. Broaching conversations on race, power, and privilege is essential to dismantling barriers that disempower BIPOC individuals. The space that was created during the panel event reinforced the power of authenticity and connection, which are two crucial elements to creating systemic change. Throughout the discussion, it became clear that interdisciplinary collaboration is equally important to reach our collective goal of racial and social justice.
After the event, I was also reminded of the role of vulnerability, which Brene Brown describes in the following quote: “Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. To have the hard conversations.” As educators, my hope is that we can continue to self-reflect, “show up” in these spaces, and use our voices to advocate for equity and healing for BIPOC students, faculty, staff, and communities.
Adriana Labarta is a Ph.D. student in the Counselor Education Department in the College of Education at Florida Atlantic University. She currently serves as a staff counselor at FAU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. Labarta’s primary research interests include eating disorders, LGBTQIA+ issues, and multicultural and social justice issues in counseling and counselor education.