Registered Student Organizations give students opportunities to explore and share their culture with campus community

Student-led clubs and organizations are an integral part of a positive campus life experience and an important tool used to build communities across campus. Lees-McRae already offers a variety of clubs and organizations for students to participate in but founding a new club can be a great way to start new conversations and build deliberate communities on campus.

Throughout the last semester, Chief Diversity Officer Charles Gibson III worked with students, faculty, and staff across campus to expand the student organizations at Lees-McRae, helping these students lay the groundwork to start four new cultural clubs where students can gather with peers who may have similar perspectives, experiences, and cultural backgrounds.

Black Diaspora Collective

Led by club president and freshman Pre-Veterinary Medicine major Saige Jones, and staff advisor Gibson, the Black Diaspora Collective (BDC) seeks to build a strong community for Black students on the Lees-McRae campus. BDC provides an avenue for students to share their experiences, traditions, and culture as young Black people in the High Country.

While the club is focused on Black experiences, topics, and issues, Jones said that by no means does she want the group to be a monolith. She encourages anyone, regardless of race, who is interested in learning more about the African American experience in this community and being part of a group that supports those students to join BDC.

“I was interested in starting this type of club because I felt like, in general, the students in the Black diaspora—which includes multi-ethnic students of color—are kind of underrepresented or feel not really included. I wanted to make a comfortable space away from school, away from classes and everything, a safe space,” Jones said. “Throughout the club meetings I’m hoping we can have conversations that don't have to just be political but could be about stuff that's going on in the community, or social, or educational concerns that many students have.”

Jones said that BDC has already seen tremendous growth from their first meeting, and she is looking forward to the club continuing to develop over time. Looking into the future she hopes membership will continue to increase and BDC will turn into a long-lasting organization on campus that makes the Lees-McRae community better for both incoming and current African American students. BDC meets at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays in Evans Auditorium.

Join the Black Diaspora Collective on The Den

Hispanic and Latinx Student Association

The Hispanic and Latinx Student Association (HSLA) is a space for Lees-McRae students of Hispanic or Latinx heritage to gather through food, educational speeches, music, and more. Although Gibson helped get the group off the ground, HSLA is now led by club president Nimgelimar Castro-Rivera, and faculty advisor Assistant Professor of Spanish Randal Scamardo. In addition to creating a community among the Hispanic and Latinx students at Lees-McRae, HSLA seeks to help the entire campus community develop a greater understanding of Hispanic and Latinx heritage and culture.

The club hopes to continue to expand and reach their goals by organizing fundraisers and hosting events, big and small, for the campus community throughout the academic year. HSLA meets at 7 p.m. on Thursdays in Evans Auditorium.

Join the Hispanic and Latinx Student Association on The Den

Jewish Student Association

After connecting with Gibson to talk about issues accessing kosher food on campus, sophomore Exercise Science and Psychology double major Benjamin Gribbins knew that he wanted to be a part of building a community for Jewish students at Lees-McRae. After collaborating with Gibson and senior Emmett Lebendig, the Jewish Student Association (JSA)─for which Lebendig is the president, Gribbins is the vice-president, and Director of Counseling Services Marla Gentile is the staff advisor─was born.

Similar to Jones and Castro-Rivera’s goals for their respective organizations, Gribbins said that JSA is for both Jewish and non-Jewish students who want to learn more about the Jewish faith and culture and support their Jewish peers in a safe and accepting environment.

“There are only a few Jewish students on campus—I know there were more last year—but the club is more about establishing something now and giving students the opportunity to participate, Jewish or non-Jewish,” Gribbins said. “I have felt safe here since day one, even before the club, but now I just feel a lot better and a lot more excited to practice. It doesn't feel like I'm on my own as a Jewish kid here. It's going to give me some friends I can explore my religion with.”

He said that connecting to the larger Jewish community in the High Country is one of the main goals of the club. Gribbins hopes JSA can build a relationship and host events with App State Hillel, the student-led Jewish organization at Appalachian State University, in the future. JSA meets twice a month on rotating dates in Wily’s Classroom.

Join the Jewish Student Organization on The Den

International Student Association

The final cultural club that Gibson helped pioneer is the International Student Association (ISA). Led by club president Stephanie Kucy and faculty advisor and Assistant Dean of Natural and Health Sciences Shinjini Goswami, ISA is a group that seeks to bring together international students at Lees-McRae no matter their home country.

The group plans to host events throughout the academic year including an international food fair, cultural night, and celebrations of international holidays that will give international students a home away from home in Banner Elk. ISA meets at 2 p.m. every other Sunday in Wily’s classroom.

Learn more about these and dozens of other Registered Student Organizations at this semester’s club fair. The fair, hosted by Campus Life, will be held on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 3:30 p.m. in Cannon Student Center. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about all the different clubs Lees-McRae has to offer and the countless ways you can get involved with your on-campus community.

Join the International Student Association on The Den

By Maya JarrellJanuary 10, 2023
Campus Life