"We included students from Sinte Gleska University, Adams State University, Alcorn State
University, Tougaloo College and West Virginia University at Parkersburg. The students talked
to each other. The current generation of educational leaders listened, and the resulting
conversation was transformational."
In November, students from colleges with diverse populations across the country came together in an online forum to discuss racial justice. The purpose of the forum was to consider what might be done to increase racial justice in their communities and on their campuses, informed by an exchange of views about what they might have in common across cultures and how their understanding differs. The forum included students from two Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Mississippi, a Hispanic-Serving Institution in Colorado, a Tribal College in South Dakota, and an Appalachian community and technical college in West Virginia.
The Students Speak forum was part of a 2020 gathering of the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students (NIHUS), in partnership with the National Issues Forums Institute and hosted by West Virginia University Parkersburg. The purpose of NIHUS is to identify common barriers to educational equity and to research paths that lead to success and graduation for historically-underserved students, including first generation college students, racial and ethnic minority groups, adult learners, socially-economically disadvantaged students, historically disenfranchised gender minorities, and veterans.
According to Dr. Chris Gilmer, Founder of the National Institutes for Historically-Underserved Students and President of WVU Parkersburg, “What sets the National Institutes apart is our mission . . . . We are seeking to fill a major hole. We are addressing what underserved students have in common across multiple populations, and we are unaware of any other group taking this direction as its major focus. How are Latinx and African American students similarly underserved because of race? How are students at tribal colleges and first-generation students at other colleges, regardless of race, similarly underserved?”
The November discussions are featured in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which highlights the insights of Dr. Jamal Watson, communications professor at Trinity Washington University: “We included students from Sinte Gleska University, Adams State University, Alcorn State University, Tougaloo College and West Virginia University at Parkersburg. The students talked to each other. The current generation of educational leaders listened, and the resulting conversation was transformational,” Watson said.
The National Institute for Historically-Underserved Students is a partner in With the People, a national initiative that encourages public deliberation on campuses and in communities, co-sponsored by the National Issues Forums Institute and a growing network of national, state, and local organizations. Dr. Gilmer looks forward to continued connections through this partnership, with the November discussion on racial justice being the first of many sustained deliberations on racial justice and other issues led by students across the nation.