As a first-generation student and founding president of the University’s Muslim Student Association, I am passionate about ensuring all students feel a sense of belonging at the University. I am looking forward to working with the organization to host more events for my classmates during the upcoming academic year that will foster diversity and inclusion.
July 19, 2021
By Adrielys Gomez ’22
Throughout my college experience, I sometimes found myself feeling isolated. I am part of the University’s Pompea College of Business, on track to earn my degree in behavioral economics. Although I knew my fellow economics classmates, I didn’t get involved beyond the classroom. I found myself, in my third year of college, as a first-generation student
with no "real college experience."
It became second nature for me to go to class and go home, only visiting the library on rare occasions. Although I would see the same faces every day in class, I would never meet anyone who had similar experiences to me or who had experienced any type of intersectionality.
One day, I decided to get more involved, so I set out to help make a space for students like me. That is when I began to take steps to form what is now a recognized student organization called the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Simultaneously, I stumbled upon a work-study opportunity at the University called the Diversity Peer Educator (DPE) program. I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved with all things diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus.
I quickly applied to be a DPE, and I was offered a position. The role of a DPE has opened so many other doors, not only for my growth as a student, but it has allowed me to make a difference in the community in which previously I had felt isolated. I soon found myself creating spaces to ensure that first-year students feel welcome.
One of the very first projects I worked on as a DPE was titled “Show Off Your Culture.” This was a time for students to share things about their culture with other students. I could see joy on my fellow classmates’ faces as they explained where they came from and learned more about other cultures while also meeting new people.
Throughout the spring semester, I strove toward making the campus a place where all students feel welcome and accepted, not just tolerated. Toleration should be the bare minimum. Other DPE student workers and I share the same goal, and it's empowering knowing that we have great leaders at the University, such as Zanaiya Leon and Carrie Robinson at the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion, to support and guide us along the way.
At the same time, I have seen the Muslim Student Association continue to grow. Our debut event was World Hijab Day, and it was powerful. Faculty and students joined in solidarity with Muslim women around the world. It was the reason why the MSA was created, to educate and foster a safe community for both Muslim and non-Muslim students.
I was thankful to have guidance from Professor Khadija Al Arkoubi, who soon became our adviser, in helping get the word out to the student body that we have an MSA at the University of New Haven.
During the academic year, the MSA hosted events every week, taking part in the University’s International Fest and making our name known across campus. We have high expectations for the upcoming year. We have set the groundwork, now it is time to flourish and thrive.
One of our goals is to continue being consistent and to host events that students can benefit from – not only regarding school, but in their lives as well. As president of the MSA, I hope to foster a community in which students feel safe, and, I cannot stress this enough, feel accepted with open arms.
I do truly believe diversity, equity, and inclusion can improve over time at the University of New Haven. I believe that with the guidance of the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion and their strategic plans to break down negative and ineffective ideologies, the University can continue to improve its climate.
I also truly believe that if more students get involved in advocacy, the work would not be as hard they think. There is power in numbers and effective delegation. There is much to do, but with the right community of faculty, staff, and students who want to see change, there is no hurdle we cannot overcome.
Adrielys Gomez ’22 is an economics major at the University of Inclusion and founding president of the University’s Muslim Student Association.