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3 Ways To Navigate A Predominantly White Campus As A Person Of Color

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

If you are reading this, you may or may not be a person of color trying to find your own footing at a predominantly white college. Or you could just be reading this because you are curious. Either way, we all know how hard it can be to find ‘your people’ once you reach college. It can be even harder to do this if you identify as a person of color and you are trying to navigate your very, very white campus

When I was a freshman in college, I was also concerned about how I would navigate a PWI (predominantly white institution). Although I had tons of experience with this going to a PWI for my entire life (from kindergarten to my senior year of high school). I knew that I wanted my experience at UMass to be different. Here are some tips and tricks for navigating a PWI if you find it a bit challenging! 

Attend all of the cultural events held on campus

This is an important one! During my freshman year (and even now), I made a huge effort to go to all of the cultural events being held. It was a great way for me to meet diverse students and create a smaller school for myself. In addition, it is a nice way for you to meet members of the E-Board and be a part of the cultural organization. Even before I was admitted into UMass, I attended a diversity weekend event in April. Because of this event, I was able to make some of my closest friends today! At this event that I went to support students of color, those who were first generation, as well as incoming freshmen who identified with having a lower socioeconomic status. Throughout this three-day weekend on campus, it was fairly easy to connect with other students, knowing we had shared similar stories. 

Develop connections with faculty who share the same background as you

Whether you identify as a first-generation college student, a student of color, etc a great way to build community is to meet with professors who share a similar background as you. Although there may not be a ton of faculty who do, once you find someone (and you will), it makes all of the difference! It was really important for me to try to take classes with diverse professors when I was able to and create a connection with them. In addition, it was essential for me to find professors and professionals who were far ahead in their careers and had similar experiences as I did. This made it fairly easy for me to ask questions about micro-aggressions and obstacles they may have faced in their career! 

Participate in affinity groups/academic programs

Throughout my four years at UMass, I have proudly been a member of four academic programs here on campus. Luckily, all of these programs have surrounded me with diverse, friendly faces that I can relate to on a personal level. These programs have made a big school like UMass feel a lot smaller. Academic programs are a great way to find people who share similar interests as you do and was a way for me to make friends.

Overall, I think navigating predominantly white campus life looks different for everyone. Some people may want to join 10 clubs, while others choose to focus on just one. These clubs could be cultural organizations or not, and that’s okay! The great thing about college is that your experience is completely catered to you! The unfortunate thing is that sometimes, experiences that we are hopeful for are not as diverse as it seems to be! My last piece of advice for you is to keep your head high. While the journey may feel annoying or long, you will find your tribe!

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Niajah Hyppolite

U Mass Amherst '23

Niajah Hyppolite is currently a senior majoring in Sociology with a minor in Political Science. During her free time she enjoys watching comedies and spending time with her loved ones. She loves reading memoirs and always has a caffeinated beverage in her hand at all times. This is her fifth semester with HerCampus and she is very excited to write!