Courier News: Diversity is celebrated at RVCC
February 15, 2019
Editor's note: The Branchburg-based Raritan Valley Community College is marking its 50th anniversary this year. An ongoing monthly series of stories will highlight different aspects of the college and its role in the life of the Central Jersey community.
Celebrating diversity enhances the educational and campus experience for everyone at Raritan Valley Community College.
The College’s strong commitment to diversity is evidenced in its 2018-2012 Strategic Plan, which states, “Valuing diversity enriches the intellectual and cultural environment for students and employees.”
“Whether it’s in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or in events open to the public, everyone benefits at Raritan Valley Community College when we celebrate the variety of cultural experiences we share as a community,” said Richeleen Dashield, RVCC Dean of Multicultural Affairs.
From programs offered by the College’s Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Social Justice and the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies; to the MLK Community Partner Breakfast; to professional development workshops for teachers focusing on prejudice and the consequences of racism—and so much more—RVCC demonstrates its strong commitment to diversity by providing learning opportunities to the entire community.
The College responds to the community’s needs by leading the way as a national model for diversity and inclusion opportunities. Its efforts have not gone unnoticed. In September, RVCC received the 2018 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The national honor recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. RVCC was the only New Jersey college or university to be honored in 2018, and it marked the fifth time the College received the award.
In choosing the colleges and universities selected for the award, INSIGHT Into Diversity publisher Lenore Pearlstein explained: “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus.”
At RVCC, that “work” includes initiatives spearheaded by the College’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, which presents diversity programs annually to 5,000 students, faculty, staff and community members through the Heritage Series of lectures and cultural programs.
Richeleen Dashield, RVCC Dean of Multicultural Affairs, left, and Barbara Bernard, Executive Director of the Malcolm Bernard Foundation, at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Partner Breakfast. (Photo11: ~Courtesy of RVCC)
“Only a few community colleges have a dedicated Office of Multicultural Affairs, and the success is largely based on RVCC’s responsiveness to the needs of students. Students gain skills to build partnerships with faculty, staff and local corporate and civic leaders, which helps them to navigate the College’s landscape and the global workforce,” said Dean Dashield.
Some of the Office’s initiatives include the Kente Ceremony; Diversity Fair; MLK Community Partner Breakfast; and Culture Shock, an annual event celebrating the richness of diversity on campus, presented by the College’s student cultural clubs. Reflecting the growth in the diversity of RVCC students, cultural clubs and organizations have increased on campus, offering a myriad of engagement activities and programs.
Many of RVCC’s community outreach diversity initiatives are sponsored by the Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership, and Social Justice and the Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which have continued to fight for the eradication of prejudice and hatred through education and partnerships.
Since the Holocaust Institute’s cornerstone educational program, Learning Through Experience, began in 1981, thousands of middle school and high school students and members of the public have participated in workshops about the Holocaust and genocides throughout the world. The event features guest speakers who have experienced the consequences of hate and prejudice and have acted with courage and resilience in the face of adversity. The Institute’s Community Legacy Project presents the stories of Holocaust survivors, liberators, rescuers, and their families who now live in the local community. Other initiatives sponsored by the Holocaust Institute include professional development workshops and a series of documentaries featuring local Holocaust survivors, as well children of survivors, focusing on their experiences.
The Paul Robeson Institute for Ethics, Leadership and Social Justice offers a number of resources and programs open to the public. Each year, the Institute sponsors the Paul Robeson Youth Achievement Awards to honor middle school and high school students in Somerset and Hunterdon County. Students are honored in four areas in which Paul Robeson excelled: Scholarship, the Arts, Community Service and Athletics. Other honors include special “Renaissance Awards” given to students who excel in a number of disciplines, and the Paul Robeson Literary Award.
Some of the College’s other community outreach and co-curriculum diversity initiatives include:
- Malcolm Bernard Historically Black Colleges and Universities College and Transfer Fair, which serves 1,300 NJ high school students.
- CRECER program, which helps prepare Latino high school students for transition to college and offers career readiness exploration.
- From Boys to Men Conference, a partnership with the New Brunswick (NJ) Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., which empowers Black and Latino high school students to become lifelong learners and to increase civic engagement.
- Girls to Women Conference, a partnership with the Raritan Valley section of the National Council of Negro Women.
- Sister to Sister and Brothers Helping Brothers Network, which provides a supportive environment to improve academic success, student satisfaction, retention and graduation rates for students of color through a wide range of services.