The DeSousa-Brent Scholars Program, which is now in its fifth year and has gone through an extensive evolution since its conception in 2006, aims to represent the traditionally underrepresented and give voice to traditionally disenfranchised groups of students on campus. According to Assistant Professor of Philosophy Sybol Anderson, one of three DeSousa-Brent instructors along with Associate Professor of International Languages and Cultures José Ballesteros and Assistant Vice President of Academic Services William “Lenny” Howard, the goal is to “position [these students] to become advocates for and educators about the interests and concerns about [underrepresented] groups of students on campus.” With a focus on diversity and inclusiveness, the program currently recruits students who are traditionally disenfranchised, including, among others, first-generation college students, ethnic minorities, disabled students, students from less-funded schools and school districts, and students with economic disadvantages.
The program, which was conceived by Nancy Danganan and Chair of Educational Studies Lois Stover, was originally meant to provide academic and social support to these students and “to acknowledge the difficult transition … to a primarily white, middle-class campus,” said Anderson. Since then, it has evolved to become a year-long course for 30 students, with a Core 101 component in the fall and a leadership seminar in the spring. During the spring, the students design, develop, and carry out their own leadership projects that focus on the issues the program addresses.
This year, one group is producing an online magazine that examines diversity. According to group member Zara Marvi, first-year, the magazine will allow a forum for students to creatively voice their opinions about diversity at the College, “whether it is through creative writing, music, photography, or art.” The intention of the magazine is to have “a dialogue about [diversity] with students and faculty,” according to Marvi.
Other groups are working on projects such as creating documentaries on stereotypes and misconceptions of difference, visiting high schools to discuss college, developing a service project to promote clean water in Haiti, holding events that celebrate diversity, and creating events to play games and discuss diversity (an article discussing the March 28 event, “This is ME!” can be found on page five).
Though the program has grown since its inception, Howard said that they are hoping to expand into a cohesive four-year program, ideally with a study abroad component. “My hope is that DeSousa-Brent is a vehicle to engage students … in all aspects and to have a full college experience.” Stover agreed, saying, “It’d be wonderful to find additional funding in order to expand the summer program and continue to deepen the support for the program and its members over the course of their time at SMCM.”
Current DeSousa-Brent Scholars will be holding leadership events, discussions, and programs throughout the end of the semester.