Why We Can’t Wait – Our Living Learning Community Journey
ACPA Commission for Housing and Residence Life Sponsored Program
Tuesday, March 13| 4:15-5:15p | 350D
Presenters: DeAndre L. Taylor & Laura Arroyo
There is an iconic photo of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in which a young African American boy asks if he can touch President Obama’s hair. The young boy, the son of a White House staffer, wanted to see if their hair felt the same. For many, this was very emotional to see and read about. As an African American male myself, that photo symbolized more than an inquisitive 5 year old asking a question.
For me, that moment sang alongside the Black National Anthem and it allowed for the hope that had died to rise and be reborn into reality. It affirmed that the white gleam of our bright star be cast to the future where Black children can live in a lifetime in which anything is possible.
The legacy of President Obama is subjective to the person. However, for me his legacy is not manifested in policy, it is manifested in allowing me to feel a sense of pride in knowing that a Black man was elected president of the United States of America. That single moment in history altered the reality of many. I was a senior in college when Obama was elected to his first term and it allowed me to have a new outlook on my collegiate experience. Growing up, I always knew that I would pursue higher education, I always saw success in my future; however, that path to success has never been easy. Like many people of color who attend predominately-white institutions, I had to persevere and overcome obstacles meant to impede my success as a student. These impediments included biased incidents, ill-willed professors, and prejudice. The grit and resiliency that I developed because of my experience allowed me to persevere. However, Obama’s election changed my psyche. I could now see a person that looked like me ascending the highest political seat in the nation; some would argue the world. That moment changed my outlook; it made me realize that I did belong and that I had a seat at the table. It gave me hope. I was proud of American history.
Dr. Beverly Tatum suggests in her book Can We Talk About Race? (2007) that immersion experiences add to cultural identity experiences. Dr. Tatum continues to state that allowing students to see themselves in their living environment, the curriculum, and solidarity with their classmates contributes to student success. Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s election didn’t instantly increase the number of black students or faculty/staff on my campus; however, for me it did eliminate the feeling of invisibility on campus. Not invisibility as in being unseen; I was very active on campus with student government and various clubs/organizations, but invisibility as in providing legitimacy to the blood, sweat, and tears that was/is shed during the plight of African Americans in this country. Please don’t misunderstand—I know Obama is not/was not “the great black hope.” However, electing President Obama made it possible for many black boys and girls to see themselves as someone who can make change. I’ll never forget the enthusiasm and excitement my younger siblings exuded when they would see Obama on television. They would proudly proclaim, Barack Obama, the first Black president.
As a current residence life professional at a predominantly white institution, I understand the experience of students of color, especially Black students on campus. I understand the importance of seeing someone that looks like you and someone you can relate with. I understand their frustrations and desire to have a community that will create that sense of belonging. That is why I feel it is imperative to provide these opportunities to students. I think about how critical it can be for a student to have a space to be themselves on campus, especially where they live, and how I can assist in making that a reality. This is what drives me. This is why I do this work in residence life; to provide spaces for young Black students to know that a PWI exists for them to. President Obama’s election taught me that, and I have a responsibility to do that for others.
Please join me on March 13, 2018 at 4:15pm to learn more about “Why We Can’t Wait- Our Living Learning Community Journey”. This session will discuss our journey in creating the Lucile B. Buchanan Living Learning Community for Black identified students and allies at the University of Colorado Boulder. Our Black students need this opportunity at a PWI. Join us in our audacity to create spaces of belonging for all.
Tatum, B. D. (2008). Can we talk about race?: and other conversations in an era of school resegregation. Boston, MA: Beacon.
Originally from Milwaukee, WI. DeAndre earned his bachelor of science in communication studies and political science from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. He earned his Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. DeAndre is currently the Assistant Director for Student Development at the University of Colorado Boulder and has worked within Residence Life for the past 9 years. His current position oversees aspects of residential education- including student development, living learning community development, residential curriculum, and assessment. Prior to coming to the University of Colorado, DeAndre worked at Marquette University as a Residence Hall Director in Milwaukee, WI.
Laura Arroyo currently serves as the Associate Director for Educational Initiatives at the University of Colorado Boulder and has worked within Residence Life for the past 13 years. Her current position oversees supervision of professional staff, residential education, residential curriculum development, living learning communities, faculty collaboration and assessment. She is currently the Chair for the ACPA Commission for Housing and Residential Life.