New receptions honoring Westhampton College student-athletes and women and gender-expansive students of color will take place this spring, according to a recent email sent to the campus community.
These additions to Westhampton College traditions are the result of a year-long reflection on what more WC could do to honor its students, Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni, said.
“This is a continuation of the work we started when I first became dean,” Genoni said. “Which is to look at everything and see what can we do better, and how we can be as inclusive as humanly possible.”
Genoni said the idea for the student-athlete reception came from her realization that there had been no Westhampton-based celebrations for WC student-athletes.
“I feel that our student-athletes give so much to the university,” Genoni said. “And they serve the university. They’re out there in the university’s colors, and so we just thought, 'Let’s try this this year.' We want to show that we care.”
The second reception, which is co-sponsored by WC and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, OMA, will celebrate women and gender-expansive individuals of color. Through working with the OMA on various initiatives for the past two years since becoming dean, Genoni saw that the two offices have overlapping missions.
“We both have missions for under-represented human beings, whether it’s gender or race, ethnicity identification in that way,” Genoni said. “We are interested in combining our caucus spaces.”
Chiara Solitario, senior and president of Westhampton Student Government Association, said she believed recognizing as many of UR’s diverse communities as possible was essential to the Westhampton student experience.
“We are ‘One Richmond’ as the phrase goes,” Solitario said. “We make up a lot of different people. Sometimes people can feel neglected if they’re not recognized, so I think both of these celebrations to honor these individuals are going to be tremendous additions.”
Another change outlined in the email was a change of date for the Connecting Women of Color Conference, an annual event in the spring semester that was initially scheduled for Feb. 16.
The conference will now take place on Oct. 26, which is closer to new student orientation. October is also a time when new students begin analyzing their experience at UR, Genoni said.
“It just seemed like a really perfect time to be welcoming,” she said.
Solitario said she was enthusiastic about these changes.
“I’m really supportive of all of them,” Solitario said. “I think they’re all good additions to celebrate people on campus for everything that they’ve done, and they make the most logistical sense.”
Both Solitario and Genoni recognized that they may receive some pushback from students, particularly from WC seniors who are graduating and will no longer be able to attend the conference. But they acknowledged that moving the conference’s date made the most sense.
“It’s sad that people aren’t going to participate in the conference,” Solitario said. “I think it’ll give a lot more planning time. I also think it’ll just set up the rest of the semester to go as follows.”
Senior Shira Smillie is a student member on the conference’s planning committee. Smillie was planning on attending the event, but was notified of the date change and can no longer attend because she will be graduating in May.
“I mean, I’m disappointed,” Smille said. “But now I hope that we can put on a better event for the fall, and can get a keynote speaker who will challenge us to think about our positionality in 2018."
Genoni encouraged any students who were disappointed with the changes to come and discuss their thoughts with her but maintained that each change will add to the WC student experience.
“I think that all the changes enhance, that’s why we’re making them,” she said. “As always, if anyone’s unhappy, if anyone has a better idea, we’re happy to talk about it.”
It is important to Genoni that WC continues to be an inclusive and welcoming space, she said.
“I hope that we continue to be a place that serves the needs of its students, that shows every day how much we care, how much we want to create a welcoming, inclusive, thriving community,” Genoni said.
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