Anahzsa Jones | Managing Editor
On Tuesday, Jan 17, NC State’s Student Involvement approved the re-emergence of the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA). The BGSA is an organization that offers both structured and informal opportunities for supportive mentorship, peer support, service learning, social capital and professional growth for African American graduate students.
Whitney McCoy, a first year doctoral student in the teacher education and learning sciences program is currently serving as the vice president of BGSA, alongside the president Marcus Howard, another PhD candidate in educational leadership, policy and human development.
“BGSA means that I will have a community of people that look like me and have similar interests here at NCSU,” said Mccoy.
Mccoy attended Winston-Salem State University, a historically black university, and values the opportunity to aid and interact with students she identifies with on several levels.
“I understand how imperative it is to be surrounded by people that have similar interests, goals, and backgrounds when you are working towards a graduate degree,” said Mccoy. “Being involved with BGSA gives me a way to build a support system and network with other African American graduate students during my time here at NCSU.”
The concept of an association for African-American graduate students is not new to NC State. Until last semester, the Association of African American Graduate Students (AAAGS) was an active part of the campus community. For reasons unknown, the association became inactive.
After the die-in and town hall meetings that occurred last semester, it became clear that there was a gap to be filled in the community. The Dean of the College of Education, Mary Ann Danowitz, hosted a racial climate forum for graduate students. Many students voiced their concerns and it was made clear that there was a need for an organization of and for black graduate students.
Dean Danowitz took the information to the Dean of the Graduate School, Maureen Grasso. Dean Grasso then hosted a meeting with some students and voiced her full support for re-vitalizing the association.
The BGSA is a collaborative effort between alumni, advisors and current members who are dedicated to facilitating cultural enrichment. To this end, the association will offer workshops, guest speakers and meetings where members can learn from one another and others in the community.
Mccoy said, “BGSA strives to foster inclusive professional and personal development opportunities for African American students.”
It is their goal to provide a support system for underrepresented students in graduate and professional programs. This includes duties that range from emotional support and networking between African American students and alumni to assisting the university in recruiting qualified underrepresented students.
According to the NC State Graduate School, as of the 2015-2016 academic year, 6.2% of the students enrolled are African American. Of those with degrees conferred, 5.5% are African American. And of the applications received by the graduate school, African American applicants make up 3.7%.
“That is a very small population and it is essential that they feel supported here at NCSU,” said Mccoy. “I am hoping that BGSA will also push other African American undergraduate students to become graduate students here at NCSU.”