Nearly 250 participants in Achieving Carolina Excellence (ACE) congregated at the prestigious Carolina Club for an enticing dinner, elated about their first year at UNC-Chapel Hill. The first-year and transfer students from underrepresented populations were about to listen to insightful advice and hear of the success of keynote speaker and Carolina alumna, Patti Harris, M. Ed (’10). During her undergraduate years, Patti was involved with some of the student organizations and groups that the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion collaborates with to this day. At the conclusion of the keynote speech and dinner, these new members of the Carolina community felt prepared to tackle their undergraduate years.
The program, hosted by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion (“D&I”), intentionally renders that sense of belonging, clarity, comfort and encouragement for academic and personal achievement that new students need and desire. This year’s cohort embraced the program with zeal.
As part of the program, the participants took advantage of their chance to move in early, and then embarked on a three-day agenda filled with spaces that promote multicultural and University awareness, education and interaction. Attendants from as far as Thailand, Africa, Europe and India – as well as the 81% of participants who call North Carolina home – gathered to engage in academic sessions where they had the opportunity to hear from university professors and professional staff about campus resources, support for achieving personal and classroom goals, and expectations for scholarly success. Also on the agenda was a more intimate activity, called “Tar Heel Talks,” which addresses identity-related questions that students may have. The personalized approach of the session resonated with the participants. “I just felt closer to my people,” reflected one participant. “It gave me a sense of community, and [a feeling] that I would never be alone on campus no matter who is around me.”
Following these cultural and identity-appreciating conversations, the new Tar Heels got some down time to eat, relax and get ready to bear witness to incredible performances from some of the student organizations at the Culture Show. The Culture Show presents various organizations that range from Fraternity and Sorority Life, to poetry, dance, singing and much more. It allows participants to see student groups and even some of their Legacy Leaders in action with what helped establish their sense of belonging in the Carolina community. One student stated happily, “[t]he culture show helped me connect with people like me and actually have fun and feel welcomed into UNC.”
As with the rest of ACE programming, the Culture Show helps facilitate the enhancement of cultural and individual identity, social awareness and self-esteem. It was followed by the final day of D&I’s three day welcome – planned to lead up to Convocation and FallFest the next day and the first day of classes the day after that. On that last day of ACE celebration the young scholars joined their new family and friends for a cookout with food, fun and music to close out the program.
Senior Director for Education, Operations and Initiatives Gretchen Bellamy, says proudly of ACE, “our office is open for all students on campus to use as a resource. It is our pleasure to welcome these students year after year and be part of the “welcoming crew” for the new Tar Heels.”
Written by Dway Stover, University Office for Diversity & Inclusion