University’s JEDI Student Ambassadors Are Leaders and Advocates for Support and Inclusion
Students in the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) student ambassadors program are excited about helping to enhance the University’s diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging (DEIAB) initiatives and to serve as a resource for their fellow Chargers.
February 23, 2023
By Angela Carter ’24, Morgan Fitch ’22, ’24 M.S., Kameron Evans ’26, Peri Alexander ’23, Ruth Kameswara Rao ’23 MPH, Ciara Wildes ’24, Nox Garner ’26, and Mary Lippa ’23
The Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) student ambassadors program enables a diverse group of undergraduate and graduate students to be a force for positive change at the University. Students from each of the University’s academic colleges and schools develop programming and initiatives that foster diversity, equity, inclusion, access, and belonging (DEIAB) and serve as an important resource for their fellow Chargers.
“Three years after the creation of the program, the JEDIs continue to be a force of instrumental change on campus,” he said. “As a result of their leadership, they have developed innovative programs to support their peers across the University, while also establishing partnerships in the surrounding communities off campus. Each JEDI continues to represent the voice of the University's five academic colleges and schools and the growingly diverse student body. Due to them, the student voice is well-represented even at the highest levels of decision-making.”
Below, this year’s JEDIs reflect on their goals and experiences as student ambassadors.
Angela Carter ’24
Becoming a JEDI has introduced me to new people and helped me become more engaged with the community of students and in campus life. I have learned so much working with my fellow students and the deans. With this new knowledge, it has been my pleasure educating others and helping to make the University more inclusive. Telling others about my experiences has helped me open up to others and brought me closer to them.
As the JEDI for the Pompea College of Business, I have found it is vital to educate others about the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. We should all be working toward that goal.
In the future, not only do I hope to continue my work, but I also hope to work with the clubs I am involved with, such as the Entrepreneurship Club and Women in Business Club.
Morgan Fitch ’22, ’24 M.S.
I have been a JEDI Ambassador for the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS) since September 2022. I am on the CAS DEI Committee, enabling me to meet with various faculty and staff to work on expanding inclusivity and belonging within the College. With the help of the committee, I created a CAS survey to gauge student concerns regarding misgendering, dead naming, belonging, and other aspects of DEI. During the Spring 2023 semester, I will be collaborating with CAS to develop solutions to issues that were brought up.
In addition to working on DEI initiatives within CAS, I also work on disability awareness and accessibility. As an autistic and disabled student, I’ve witnessed firsthand the struggles the disabled community can go through. In Fall 2022, I was a guest speaker at the USGA and collected concerns regarding disabled parking on campus. I brought those concerns to the University’s Deputy Chief of Police and had a conversation about adequate solutions.
I’ve also increased the accessibility of the JEDI Instagram (@unewhavenjedi) by including alternative text and image descriptions. I am also in the process of planning an autism awareness event for April.
Being a JEDI Ambassador has allowed me to be an advocate for the Charger community and to help bring about positive change. It has also allowed me to become more involved on campus and to meet a lot of new people. I look forward to continuing my work as a JEDI and seeing what me and my fellow JEDIs can accomplish.
Kameron Evans ’26
I have the honor of being a JEDI Ambassador representing the Tagliatela College of Engineering for the 2022-2023 academic year, and I am extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity to advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at the University of New Haven.
Being a JEDI is a meaningful experience to me because I am able to connect with other students from different backgrounds and with different needs, thereby learning more about my peers and satisfying their needs at the same time. Another reason being a JEDI is meaningful to me is because I feel that it’s important for a community to maintain a good balance of unity while also being able to celebrate each other’s differences. Through the JEDI program, I can contribute to my community in that regard.
My field of chemical engineering is one with a very low percentage of minorities, which is a common factor for many engineering disciplines. As I prepare to enter this field as a Black engineer, I hope to inspire and encourage others who may be deterred by the lack of diversity to push through and make room for themselves in the industry.
The creation of a diversity blog for the University, in addition to meeting with faculty and planning with recognized student organizations (RSOs), are a few initiatives I am working on that I believe will effectively promote justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus. Working as a JEDI alongside my colleagues has been an enlightening experience, and I’m proud to see that we are truly making a difference on campus!
Peri Alexander ’23
Serving the University as a JEDI Ambassador will always be a rewarding experience. I feel we, as whole, came a long way from where we started, and are being recognized for our efforts. Last semester, the JEDIs were recognized as “Human of the Week” by the Undergraduate Student Government Association, and, personally, I was very honored and proud.
Last semester, I co-founded the Students Integrated Mentorship Program (S.I.M.P.) with Graduate Student Council President Prateek Mansingh ’23 MHA, and it has truly been a pleasure watching our ideas come to fruition. We spent most of Summer 2022 planning events, creating applications, and conducting interviews so the program would be fully operational at the beginning of fall 2022, and our hard work paid off because we had a great turnout. Prateek and I worked tirelessly to ensure our mentorship program thrived, and we are pleased to announce that the program will continue through the coming semester.
I am proudly serving on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Access, and Belonging (DEIAB) committee for the School of Health Sciences (SHS), and I joined the new SHS student advisory board where students meet with Associate Dean Mendez and Dean Francis-Connolly regularly to discuss any issues or concerns at the University. On these committees, we focus on improving the student experience at the School of Health Sciences. This has included fixing issues that inconvenienced students academically as well as advocating for students whose needs aren’t being acknowledged in the classroom. For example, some students weren’t being called by their respective pronouns and we, as JEDIs, discussed the problem and wrote a statement to the University expressing the importance of utilizing the correct pronouns and showing respect to one another.
One thing I learned this semester is that if you believe it, you can achieve it with the right support system. When creating S.I.M.P., I was nervous about the turnout, how many students would be interested in mentoring, and if this idea would be beneficial to the student body. With Prateek and Dr. Mendez’s support, I pushed through my doubts and created an amazing program with the most amazing and genuine mentors and mentees. Through creating the program, I also learned how to be an effective facilitator, which also strengthened my public speaking skills.
We have a passion for DEI and advocacy, and I am honored to hold the title of JEDI Ambassador!
I currently help run the JEDI Instagram, so if there is anything you’d like the JEDIs to promote, I encourage you to send a direct message to our Instagram @unewhavenjedi.
Ruth Kameswara Rao ’23 MPH
I've been a JEDI since September 2022. As an international student, I often felt helpless and incompetent, mainly because I was in a completely new environment, and there were so many things I didn't know. I found it pretty challenging to navigate through my first year. Having figured out things, at times, the hard way, I have found the JEDI Ambassador position gave me immense voice and means to help my peers who are in the same boat.
With a language barrier, I was not very confident with my communication skills and was nervous with public speaking. But this position has enabled me to have conversations with more than 25 staff and professors, advocating for international students, which boosted my confidence. The strong motivation to support my peers helped me to overcome stage fright and to serve as a panelist in the Graduate Student Success panel at Spring Orientation 2023.
The pinnacle moments of my work have been the one-on-one conversations I had with international students. These conversations served as the fuel to work on new initiatives. Recognizing international students are not always authorized to work and, during their graduate life, are so interested and willing to exercise their skills and contribute to the community, the importance and need of volunteering opportunities became vivid to me. In collaboration with health sciences faculty, I am working on building partnerships with community organizations to provide more volunteering opportunities to our health sciences students. I also desire to extend such opportunities to the international students of the other four academic colleges of the University.
In collaboration with the Career Development Center, we are working to address two other issues: international students' struggle for a sense of belonging and increasing an understanding of the value of skill development. We're organizing a bi-weekly program called Gather & Grow, where instructors, staff, and students can gather and engage in casual chats while sitting together. This setting will encourage a learning and knowledge-sharing culture and establish a secure environment where students can improve their public speaking abilities. We intend to moderate the discussions with a focus on skill definition and development, and our goal is to foster a sense of community among professors, staff, and students.
My journey as a JEDI has been the most impactful learning experience I have had at the University.
My biggest goal is to represent, collaborate with, and advocate for the students, staff, and faculty of the University. We often shy away from openly talking about social class issues, and it is time to change this. I aim to help normalize the inclusion of social-class issues in the University’s DEIAB initiatives.
One of my goals as a JEDI ambassador is to meet with University offices to discuss class-equity efforts and implement practices to actively combat classism. In addition, I have been working on a free menstrual hygiene product program at the University, which will provide free products in all men's, women's, and gender-neutral bathrooms at the University. For the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, I aim to bring RSOs that fall under the college disciplines closer together through program collaborations and by helping to connect first year Henry C. Lee College students with the college’s RSOs.
Nox Garner ’26
As a JEDI Ambassador, I have been able to see firsthand some of the efforts this University has put into DEIAB initiatives, and it has genuinely impacted how I view offices on campus. Within my position, I represent the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, and I focus on DEIAB issues surrounding mental illness and disabilities.
Being a JEDI Ambassador has given me the opportunity to speak up for members of our University community who may not know how to address some of the issues they’re presented with. I as an individual, am very hesitant when it comes to trust, and so are many of the people I have been working to represent. Seeing this University work to address systemic issues gives me so much hope and pride in what I do, and I can’t wait to see all the positive changes being made.
My goal as a JEDI Ambassador is to address issues in regard to mental health, mental illness, and disabilities on campus, as well as making sure students know their rights within those umbrellas. Right now, I am working with offices on campus to plan awareness events and activities, specifically a satellite National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) walk and, potentially, a podcast about DEIAB on campus.
Mary Lippa ’23
I was extremely excited to return as a JEDI during Spring 2023 semester, which is my last semester as an undergraduate student. The work I have done has been valuable to both myself and the community, and it is so nice to see the JEDI program continue to grow.
As a JEDI for the College of Arts and Sciences, I work with the CAS DEI committee, Dean Menon, and various students to make the college more accessible and inclusive, at both an individual and academic level. Two initiatives in particular that I am eager to see grow are the free menstrual products and land recognition plaque initiatives, both of which are important to our community. I am working specifically to increase visibility and knowledge of the indigenous communities both on and off campus, as well as examining how we can better integrate various cultural studies into the curriculum.
Looking to the future, I hope to see our gender and sexuality minor and race and ethnic studies minors grow, as well as having free menstrual products in all bathrooms and better universal design.