Blue Pride Rising: A Campus-Wide Approach to Community Engagement

Courtney E. Williams, Director, Center for Student Engagement and Leadership, Dillard University

November 30, 2017

Our university prides itself on honoring our heritage by promoting excellence in all endeavors. Being a participant in the LEAD Initiative has strengthened bonds across campus and allowed for meaningful reflection and collaboration between institutional divisions. We conceptualize civic learning and democratic engagement not only in the traditional sense but also as civility, inclusion, social justice, and advocacy.

 Our philosophy of honoring our past by engaging in our future has shaped a multitude of campus partnerships including

  •  Constitution Day Free Speech Board (Enrollment Management, Student Success)
  • This initiative allowed students to reflect and engage in conversation about the relevancy of the constitution in 2017 and how the constitution impacts members of the African American community.
  • President’s Brain Food Lecture series Angela Rya, Issa Rae (President’s Office)
  • Our very own @HipHopPrez has invited several keynote speakers and activist to campus to inspire our university community to be active in politics and advocacy. Most recently, political commentator Angela Rye joined us on campus where she discussed the intersections of law and society as well as being active in politics on local, state, and national levels.
  • Screening of Tell Them We Are Rising historical documentary (President’s Office)
  • This documentary screening followed by discussion allowed students to engage in dialogue about historic beginnings of historically black colleges and universities and their relevance in current society, particularly during a time fueled with racism, sexism, and a lack of civility. The documentary not only allowed for a deepening of our education and also an examination of the great community impact of HBCUs.
  • Local Election Engagement (Academic Affairs, Student Success)
  • Our university hosted 2 mayoral forums with local candidates in addition to many students serving on the front-lines as canvassers and campaign team members. This local election was historic as New Orleans elected its first female mayor! The student body event put together a video to increase voter awareness and education during run-off elections.
  • Pay It Forward Campaign (Institutional Advancement)
  • Our university is a firm believer in sowing into one’s community and paying-it-forward for future generations. As such, many students and student organizations participated in the #GivingTuesday campaign which raised over $50,000 for the university.
  • Leadership Think Tank (Student Success)
  • Several of our student leaders participated in a leadership think tank with Grambling University. During the meeting, students discussed issues facing students within Louisiana and also created action plans to share with constituents. Student leaders will meet again during the spring to engage in deeper conversations.
  • Hurricane Relief (Campus Wide Effort)
  • Student organization ran a month-long donation drive to affected individuals and families devastated by hurricanes. I
  • Donation Drives (Student Success)
  • Our university passed out over 175 boxes to families in need during the Thanksgiving holiday. We also partnered with comedienne Tiffany Haddish and She Ready Productions to collect luggage for children in the foster care system. 

As we wrap up the semester, each first-year student will be writing a letter of inspiration to youth who are in juvenile detention centers across the state. This component of a service-learning course perfectly incorporates civic learning, democratic engagement, civility, and inclusion all while showing students alternate realities they may face when not living in community. 

Our tight-knit university has come together to make a great difference within the community. The aforementioned initiatives highlight the significance of working together towards campus-wide community engagement. 

We look forward to more intentional and meaningful cross-campus collaborations in the future. 

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