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OASP Debuts Racial Identity Student Retreat

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, October 20, 2013

Updated: Sunday, October 20, 2013 23:10

Around 35 students will leave the Boston College Campus on Friday, Nov. 15 for the first-ever retreat sponsored by the Office of AHANA Student Programs (OASP). The retreat, titled R.I.D.E. (Racial Identity Development Experience), is designed to help students reflect on the role that their race plays in their identity. In an email sent to all students on Wednesday, Oct. 9, OASP advertised the weekend as “an overnight retreat to explore who you are, the impact of race on your personal identity, and how it all relates to your time at BC and beyond.”
The email specified Nov. 1 as the deadline for registration, and, at the time of print, 65 students have signed up.

“It seems like there’s a buzz on campus around this,” said Yvonne McBarnett, program administrator of OASP.

McBarnett, who is affectionately called “Ms. Smiley” by the students who work with her, expressed great excitement about the number and variety of students who have already shown interest in the weekend.

“Not just AHANA students have signed up—that shows me it’s something everyone wants,” she said. “And the deadline’s not until Nov. 1.”
McBarnett has been working with Tim Molvey, assistant director of collaborative initiatives for the Center for Student Formation, and Michael Sacco, director of the Center for Student Formation, as well as Dericka Canada, GLSOE ’17, and Luis Balcazar, GSSW ’15, since the beginning of the year to develop R.I.D.E. The retreat grew out of an internal review of OASP that was conducted last year.

The internal review revealed that students were looking for more opportunities to engage in conversation about race and racial identity. McBarnett referred to an event held during Black History Month last year that featured a panel of professors from the department of African and African Diaspora studies (AADS) who spoke about racial identity. The panel was followed by an open forum in which students could ask questions and share experiences.

“The place was packed,” McBarnett said. “We shouldn’t wait until Black History Month to have these conversations.”
FACES, which exists to foster and facilitate conversations like the ones McBarnett hopes will happen during R.I.D.E., is also involved with the retreat. Three students from FACES will give the three student talks that will kick off the retreat.

After that, students will participate in smaller group activities, as well as some retreat-wide games, and engage in “lots of reflection,” McBarnett said.

She hopes that, with the help of FACES and DOR, the retreat will act as a “safe space” where students feel they can completely and honestly engage in the questions being posed and share their experiences with their peers.

Another R.I.D.E. retreat is planned for February, and McBarnett refers to these first two retreats as a pilot program.

“I can see this blowing up into something bigger,” she said.

One goal of the retreat is to have the students bring the discussions they were able to engage in on R.I.D.E. back to the BC campus, and get more students involved in the conversation. Barnett hopes that conversations revolving around racial identity will become part of the curriculum in some AADS classes, and that, eventually, there may even be a one-credit class solely devoted to these types of discussions.

The entire staff of OASP will be attending the event, including the director of OASP, Ines Maturana Sendoya. McBarnett expressed the excitement of the whole office regarding this retreat.

“This is new for our office,” she said. “We want to be there to serve, ever to excel.”

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