Student-Run Initiative Works to Create Space for BIPOC Students on Campus
Trent University Durham Greater Toronto Area's campus is home to many students seeking a supportive and inclusive learning environment. Sense of Belonging, a student-run initiative coordinated through Student Affairs, is dedicated to highlighting and elevating BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of colour) students at the Trent Durham campus.
Nika Kumarasamy, a fourth-year Social Work student and student-coordinator of the project, chose Trent Durham for its comfortable, community feel.
It was this feeling of comfort that inspired Nika to expand that space by getting involved with the Sense of Belonging project. For her, the placement provided an opportunity to learn about scaling her efforts to create comfort across an entire campus.
"When I thought about this, I always thought about doing so on a small, individual scale. When I interviewed for a placement working with the Sense of Belonging project, I was intrigued by the idea of creating that safe space on a bigger, campus-wide scale."
Supporting students where they are
Sense of Belonging provides support and services to BIPOC students by connecting students with each other, with faculty members, and with community groups. They host regular events such as Snacks and Stories, where students have an opportunity to talk about what's on their mind and their campus experiences. They also organize webinars with Trent faculty members on topics like mental health and collaborate with Trent-run groups including Peer Mentoring.
"The Sense of Belonging project can support individuals and communities by providing an inclusive space where students feel valued, heard, and supported,” shared Christopher Nelan, coordinator of Student Life. “When we feel like we belong, we are more likely to engage, contribute, and thrive, and the benefits ripple out to the wider world. Nika's work with the sense of belonging project is amazing and has been essential in creating opportunities for Trent Durham GTA students."
Developing future leaders through the project
One of the most rewarding experiences Nika had while working with Sense of Belonging was attending the Black Creators Community event with the Whitby Chamber of Commerce. "Being given the opportunity to sit in a room with so many people wanting to make many much-needed changes to our home here in the GTA in so many different ways has been one of my most rewarding experiences so far,” Nika explained. “There was a sense of community in that room that's hard to describe with words.
“I hope to bring those ideas and my newfound knowledge of how to execute them into my future career, wherever I end up."
During Black History Month, Sense of Belonging is hosting events for students which can be found on the Trent Black History Month website. Students who have feedback or suggestions to elevate the experience of BIPOC students on campus in Durham can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on February 17, 2023