Students from the Arab Student Association, PILOT — an organization for underrepresented and first-generation students — and La Casa held an Arab and Latinx Wolverine Day on Friday. Wolverine Day brought together current and potential University of Michigan students from Arab and Latinx backgrounds for a day of getting to know the University from a student’s perspective.
The event was an overnight experience for out-of-state students during which prospective admits experienced dorm life, being guided by current students, eating in dining halls and spending a night in their dorms. On Thursday night, they watched the Latin@ Culture Show and did community-building activities in East Quad Residence Hall. On Friday, the group was joined by in-state students for a Michigan experience panel discussion, led a campus tour and hosted an empowerment session and a presentation on the next steps in the college transition. The program was put on in collaboration with a number of offices and departments including the office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, Student Life, and Counseling and Psychological Services.
During the Michigan experience panel, current students from the Latinx community answered questions and gave their personal perspectives on life at the University. LSA freshman Ronnie Alvarez talked about his experience as an underrepresented student and the importance of taking a first-year seminar.
“My chemistry class is 500 people, and I felt like the only Brown person there (which) is pretty intimidating,” he said. “I took a first-year seminar in medical ethics, and it was a really small group of like 15 people.”
Much of PILOT, ASA, and La Casa's collective work this year has focused on underrepresentation of the organizations' constituent populations on campus. Latinx and Hispanic numbers have grown steadily in the last 5 years to now comprise more than 6 percent of the student body—yet demands authored by La Casa underscore a lack of resources and services tailored to the Latinx community. Arab, Middle Eastern and Norh African students, on the other hand, are not yet counted on official University documents and applications, as highlighted by the #WeExist campaign. Initial results from a diversity campus climate survey indicated ME/NA students make up about 2 percent of undergraduate students.
LSA freshman Sandra Perez discussed the diverse range of resources the University offers. She recommended taking a few classes at first to get adjusted to the new college life and keep an open mind about what to study. Perez participated in the Summer Bridge Scholars Program, which she said she enjoyed.
“I decided to come to (the University) because it has a lot of resources,” Perez said. “You're already coming here with an open mind about what you want to do. I don't recommend taking a ton of classes because you are just getting adjusted … I would just give it some time before you just dive in.”
Students from the Arab Student Association like co-president Rasha Jawad, an LSA junior, spoke about experiences as an Arab student on campus, as well as the importance of empowering future generation of students.
Panelist Amy Munoz, an LSA freshman, emphasized the importance of exploring courses and opportunities during the first semester. She recommended waiting until second semester to get a job. Munoz currently works at Java Blue in East Quad and said the job is simple and enjoyable.
“There are so many ways you can grow and get involved,” Munoz said. “Definitely take the time to explore all of your options and research them. Last semester I took an Intro to Latino Studies class and it was so interesting to hear about how we influenced the nation and learning more about our culture.”
Prospective student Hilal Bazzi said he was excited to meet Arab faculty and staff members.
“When I see my own people being represented in University offices, it makes me look forward to being a student on campus,” he said.