newsApril 10, 2024

SEMO’s diverse students and organizations are creating a new path as they put university resources to use.

SEMO’s Black Student Union (BSU) held a general body meeting, discussing upcoming events, ongoing initiatives and projects and next semester’s leadership roles on Monday, April 1.

SEMO’s BSU upcoming president is Junior health care management major Jaden Woods, and all other board positions will be interviewed for after applications are released and completed.

BSU plans to expand its operations by partnering with other Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) organizations on campus to help create more events and spaces catering to diverse needs and wants.

Participating students and faculty discussed the upcoming Sip n Paint event hosted by BSU. This event will allow students to foster connections and build relationships in a fun, diverse environment.

Also discussed was the upcoming Black Oscars events, where students of diverse communities and positions will be awarded and encouraged for their success by other students.

Most recently, the BSU organization partnered with faculty member Bruce Skinner to implement black hair care products in the campus Bookstore, in order to give African-American and other diverse students a better sense of community and representation.

Senior political science major and SEMO’s Democrats organization leader Brock Freeman helped explain the organizational efforts in the recent BSU meeting about the upcoming black hair care movement.

“Our work now is not so much on the advocacy side but how we put together plans and solutions to hand to the people in charge that can start to put our ideas in motion and make them accessible on campus,” Freeman said. “We want to create a taskforce and pull together all the African American organizations on campus to create that collaborative feel and circulate press releases and media coverage to show that we not only care about being inclusive but we have services that account for that.”

Senior history major Kiyah Thorton, BSU’s current president and participant for two years, shed insight on the active plans and motivations for the organization.

“I think our biggest goal is creating that community space for black students on campus that genuinely caters towards us, because a lot of stuff doesn’t. We're trying to build more initiatives not just for community building but getting more freshmen and students in general involved. We want our presence to be seen more on campus and to put our voices together so we won’t be diminished, but it would help if we got the same resources and support as other campus groups,“ Thornton said.

Thornton said she feels SEMO’s DEI initiatives are working harder than ever to make a space where they fit and find belonging through unified efforts across campus.

Assistant Professor and Black faculty staff alliance chair Samatha Washington, commented on some of the rewards and challenges of her position and how she sees her relationship with some of SEMO’s DEI programs like BSU.

“It's always rewarding working with students and contributing to their growth and knowledge. And to see the impact of successful collaborative events on participants and the awareness it gives to the community,” Washington said. “Although as far as challenges go, we might have some great ideas but not enough manpower and resources are limited so we can’t do everything we want to do, in the time we want. It’s our job as an alliance to be a supportive resource for students and to make that connection with them as they grow.”

The board of Black Faculty and Staff aims for student connections surpassing their college careers, and wishes to hold connections with students as they transition to alumni and continue to be helpful resources for one another.

Freshman cyber security major Caleb Palmer attended his first BSU meeting and expanded on his experience with the organization and how they have shaped his attendance at SEMO so far.

“It was different than I expected, and everyone was very welcoming. It was like an open space and I even got to participate and put my own input on stuff. I would definitely attend another one. BSU hosted one of the first events I went to, their silent headphone party. I met a lot of my friends there and it showed me even at a PWI that there's still that connection to people like me while in Cape Girardeau,” Palmer said.

SEMO’s Black community has grown with many efforts from students, faculty, staff and organizations. To celebrate and award these individual efforts, BSU will be hosting, alongside others, a Black Oscar ceremony on April 20, starting at 6:30 p.m., in Dempster Hall in Glenn Auditorium.