October 09, 2013

Graduate Students of Color Alliance takes shape

Two students, Shannon Mouzon (PMHC) and Michelle Hyman (MCFT), this semester organized the graduate school’s first Students of Color Alliance, attracting enthusiasm from students and faculty.

After searching for an open forum for students of color to discuss the unique challenges they face, Shannon Mouzon (PMHC) and Michelle Hyman (MCFT) this year founded Graduate Students of Color Alliance, an organization they are continuing to ground in strong student leadership. The club plans to host structured speaking events, where faculty members can present research and share stories, but meetings will center around student-led dialogues.

“We’re going to work collaboratively with the students to decide what kind of events they want to see on campus,” Mouzon said. “The idea is to celebrate culture but also to provide professional development opportunities.”

Upcoming events, Mouzon and Hyman said, might incorporate networking time, cultural artifacts like a Dios de Los Muertos altar, and presentations from the club’s faculty sponsor Delisha Pittman, whose research investigates health issues affecting the African/American community. 

Interested students can take a leadership role, Hyman said, by completing administrative work — sending emails and helping build the club’s website — but also by facilitating difficult conversations and showing up to discussions with personal reflections.

In the months leading up to the club’s creation, both Hyman and Mouzon had the experience of being the only student of color in a classroom. During lunch last year, Hyman chatted with another student about creating a secure space where students of color could share thoughts. She reached out to Tricia Brand, the associate dean of student engagement for the undergraduate school, who introduced her to Mouzon. Over the summer, the two students set about structuring the club, uniting separate academic and cultural histories to face a common concern.

”I think it’s an important question,” Pittman said, “that as we grow and diversify, how do we continue to support the diversified needs of our students?”

Though Pittman said groups like the Alliance more commonly appear on large campuses, the student leaders studied schools of similar size as a model and drew inspiration from similar groups on the undergraduate and law campuses at Lewis & Clark. 

“We did our research,” Mouzon said, “because we wanted to find something that would work for this campus.”

Around 12 or 13 students attended the club’s first meeting, Hyman said, and more expressed interest through emails. Before both Mouzon and Hyman graduate next year, they hope to schedule monthly meeting times and jumpstart meaningful exchanges. 

“We want to put something in place that will persist after we graduate,” Mouzon said. “We want it to become what students feel like they need.”


Caleb Diehl ‘17 contributed to this story.