Are you active alumnae of your school? College or law? I know many people, especially my fellow alumni of color, have no interest in contributing as alumni. Many had bad culture shock by attending universities with a low amount of minorities; others had to face blatant racism from ignorant students and faculty. Plus, you add up all the debt most of us are in (hello, I went to two private institutions), the horrible job market and it’s like–what have you done for me lately, right?
I get it and can definitely understand that sentiment. But at the same time, I’ll argue that it is vital for alumni of color, especially women, to participate as alumni at our respective schools.
First, it’s important for students to see that other people of color made it through their school, through similar issues, and made it out alright. You can also help create a new network and support system for those current students of color. For example, as I mentioned in Monday’s post, while in college, I had no idea what getting into law school entailed. I was lucky that I was able to piecemeal information on my own; along with advice from two brand new law students that I happened to know. Remembering how difficult it was for me, I gave my contact info to the office of multicultural programs at my university and am available to answer questions any students may have about law school. It doesn’t take much time or effort on my part, but it’s a great way to contribute.
Second, your participation can also change the perception of your school. It’s important for all students, administration, and even the local community to see that your school’s success stories aren’t just white people. By being present, the school can’t just use you as a statistic (i.e. in 2013, you were part of the largest minority class), rather you can voice your opinion and a school truly committed to improvement will listen. If they don’t, you can join boards and association to demand progress. The more alumni of color, the more power you’ll have. Finally, coming back and demanding a seat at the table, legitimizes your experience at the school and shows the achievements alumni of color can make in the professional world.
Finally, this participation is also a benefit to you; by being present and giving a voice to your experiences (both good and bad) you become empowered. This will make you stronger advocate both for you educational communities and in your professional life overall.
Whenever I question whether or not to keep participating as an alumnae I remember what one great professor told me my junior year of college. One day in my Poli Sci class people started discussing cultures and were saying some off-the-wall things. I didn’t respond because I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to continue this off-topic conversation in class. The next day, I approached the professor for his opinion and he told me, “A strength of having minorities in the classroom is that the minority can provide a different perspective. If you sit there and say nothing, it’s like you’re not in the classroom at all.”
This sentiment applies to once we graduate as well. If we made it through the trenches and then don’t bother to come back to talk about the good and the bad; if we don’t come back to hold the school accountable for change and progress, then it’s like we were never there at all.