Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has renamed the BIPOC Mental Health Collective to the Student of Color Support Space. The collective was created last year, and connects students and staff of color in a safe space that encourages sharing experiences.
CAPS Psychotherapist Neal Sardana, CAPS Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Tamanna Rahman, Visiting Professor of Psychology Adam Kim, Director of the Resource Center Demetrius Colvin, and Psychotherapist Alison Burge, who joined CAPS earlier this semester, are the five faculty and staff members on the Student of Color Support Space planning committee. The decision to change the name to the Student of Color Support Space was made after several discussions both last year and this semester with the planning committee and students, and after reviewing surveys sent to students.
“Students indicated that they felt most comfortable with the term ‘students of color’ which is widely used around campus,” Burge wrote in an email to The Argus. “Similarly…the framework of ‘support space’ was felt to be more inclusive and representative of the nature of the space…. The new title ‘support space’ also nods at this connection to CAPS facilitation.”
Based on student response, the Student of Color Support Space provides support through two groups: one staff-led and one student-led.
“Survey results indicated that students of color on campus wanted two types of spaces – one run only by students (which can be found at the Resource Center, as the mindfulness/discussion group known as the Students of Color Healing Circle) and one run by CAPS staff of color,” Burge wrote.
The Student of Color Support Space aims to connect students and staff of color on campus to determine how to best meet the needs of students at the University.
“The space is being designed to address topics relating to racism, identity, and culture as it relates to one’s mental health in order to build community and create a sense of belonging,” Burge wrote. “The main goal of the Student of Color Support Space is to connect students with staff, faculty and peers of color to provide them with a space where they are able to heal.”
The Support Space aims to approach discussions about identity in a multi-faceted and intersectional way.
“I think, of course, the primary goal and the primary values of the BIPOC Mental Health Collective is just to provide students of color…with a space to reflect and to share their own personal thoughts about mental health, as it pertains to discussions and conversations that were informed by the identity markers of race and ethnicity,” Brianna Mebane ’22, who was involved in early planning with the collective, said. “And then also kind of intersecting those particular markers with like…gender, sexuality, nationality [and] other things that have helped transform people’s lives [while still] recognizing the complexities of identity as both an abstraction and as the whole person.”
The Student of Color Support Space emailed a survey to students on Oct. 26 to gather information on their concerns. In the future, the collective hopes to host events on campus based on needs voiced by the student body.
“The Student of Color Support Space has been holding virtual planning meetings on Mondays from 12:30 [p.m.] to 1 [p.m.] to gather students, staff and faculty in hopes of collaborating on ideas to become more active on campus,” Burge wrote. “We hope to plan an event for early December, and we will be sending out invites via email to various identity-based student organizations on campus.”
The collective is hoping that events like these will encourage more students to reach out and get involved in building connections and developing a community between students, faculty, and staff of color at the University. Mebane advised students to take advantage of the Student of Color Support Space and to actively participate if they don’t feel that the collective is addressing what they want.
“Don’t be afraid to…speak up and say something because this mental health collective was formulated and planned out with students in mind,” Mebane said. “And so, if the students themselves are not getting from this space what they feel they need or deserve, then…we have to fix that. We have to change that and it’s important that it becomes a space that people would want to share and recommend to other students so that we can even further widen the impact that this has on the Wesleyan campus and [the] student of color community.”
Kat Struhar can be reached at email@example.com.