On Friday, August 15, over 200 incoming first-year and transfer students and their families gathered in the Student Union Great Hall. It was just a couple of hours since they had stepped on campus knowing that, this time, they weren’t going back home when their families left. For some of them it would be their first experience spending the night anywhere but their family home.
Some of these new Carolina students moved into their residence halls that morning and all of them began their transition to college during the Achieving Carolina Excellence (ACE) welcoming session. Put over 400 new students and family members in this setting and you’ve got a lot of excitement and a few nerves. Add about 40 members of the Minority Student Recruitment Committee (MSRC) cheering the new students on and performing for them and the atmosphere is electric. ACE is a program designed by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) to assist first year and transfer students from underrepresented populations with their transition to Carolina.
Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton welcomed the participants and urged students to learn from the incredibly diverse world that is now just a short walk from their residence hall. “You have opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone,” she said. “And I urge you to take advantage of them. Between what’s within you and what we have within the walls of this campus—you have everything you need to be successful.”
The welcome session also included greetings from the admissions office, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp, MSRC On-Campus Coordinator Angel Washington, and from the presidents of the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC), the Asian Student Association (ASA), the Black Student Movement (BSM), and the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA).
Following the welcome and faculty/staff reception the program included concurrent sessions for family members, a session for male students hosted by Carolina Men Advocating for Learning, Empowerment, and Success (Carolina M.A.L.E.S.), a session for the women hosted by Unique Heels, and a session addressing the needs of students of all gender identities and expressions hosted by the UNC LGBTQ Center. For incoming student Estefane Santiago-Lopez the Unique Heels session was a favorite. She thought the presenters were “nice, funny and honest. They gave great advice and said many important things.”
At 4:30 in the afternoon student participants said good bye to their families and met with their ACE counselors for their first dinners on campus. For first-year student and CMSP Scholar Phil Locklear, the evening-ending culture show in the Great Hall was the highlight of the day. Participants were treated to performances by Opeyo!, EROT, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Kamikaze Dance Group, Que Rico, and Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.
On Saturday morning, Dean Harold Woodard hosted an academic success discussion and panel. Students then participated in a service project in the Pit hosted by TABLE NC, a local nonprofit that provides healthy, emergency food aid to hungry children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro followed by the ACE Expo where they were introduced to more than 40 clubs, organizations and resources. “All of the first year students were eager to participate in the service project and expo,” said Ada Wilson Suitt, Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at DMA “and we had one of the greatest turnouts at the academic session that we have seen in years.”
Other activities let students choose from welcoming sessions hosted by BSM, ASA, CIC, CHispA, and Tar Heel Transfers and then participants ended the day with a Game Night in Upendo Lounge.
“The energy surrounding the weekend was overwhelming,” Wilson Suitt added “Students were excited to be part of a program that celebrated and embraced their cultural identity.”
ACE participants will have a chance to catch up with each other and their MSRC counselors on September 1 at the ACE cookout. For more information about other diversity events, visit diversity.unc.edu.
- Inclusive Student Excellence
- Diversity and Multicultural Affairs
- The Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling
- UNC Undergraduate Admissions