People and Community

Graduate student revitalizes affinity group on campus

Doctoral student Adrianne Wilson works to promote networking events and workshops for black graduate students across the University.
Black Graduate Student Association President
The exective board of the Black Graduate Student Association at The Wet Lab for an event in September. From left, Adrianne Wilson, president; Dueina McManus, secretary; Crystal Davidson, vice president; Matta Sanoh, events chair; and Yolanda Black, treasurer.

When Adrianne Wilson enrolled at the University of Miami she was surprised to learn that she was one of a handful of black students on the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science campus. 

This fall she decided to revitalize the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) to provide a space for black graduate students to have the opportunity to interact with a community of like-minded individuals.

“I felt isolated,” said Wilson, a marine biology and ecology Ph.D. candidate. “The former members of the association graduated and the organization fell off.”

Those feelings of isolation Wilson and her peers felt became the tipping point. After attending the Students of Color Symposium, coordinated by the Division of Student Affairs’ Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, she was inspired to use her voice and reestablish the BGSA with the purpose to serve as a professional and social support body for graduate students at the University.

“There were four black students that I knew of on the RSMAS campus, and one of the students left halfway through the year,” said Wilson, who was selected as a student representative for the Rosenstiel School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee this semester. “I was so concerned as to why she left that I reached out to her and she confided in me that she didn’t feel supported.”

Wilson and her associates are dedicated to promoting the recruitment of underrepresented students in graduate school programs and promote diversity in academia.

Anthoney Kinney, assistant dean of students and advisor for the BGSA, echoed similar sentiments of inclusion and the University’s commitment to creating a culture of belonging, a transformative initiative in the Roadmap to Our New Century.

“I think that sense of connectedness can only be accelerated when you meet and interact with other students whose family and/or background characteristics are similar to your own,” said Kinney, who oversees the Student Affairs Crisis Coordinators program, serves as a judicial officer and is the department’s liaison to athletics. “I would tell students who feel isolated that there are organizations, faculty, and administrators at UM who are prepared to support you.”

The organization plans to host career-building workshops and community events throughout the year. Moving forward, the BGSA hopes to increase the visibility and inclusion of minority groups within the graduate school. Wilson and other association members are looking forward to networking with diverse groups of professionals as they continue their organizational programming. 

The BGSA Kickback on Sept. 19 at The Wetlab on the Rosenstiel campus was the organization’s first official event in three years. Wilson said it was important to her to gather there because she “wanted to take up a space where you don’t usually see [black students].”

“The opportunity to interact with other black students and professionals in a casual setting is not only great for our careers but also empowering,” said Wilson. “I would really like for the University to look into recruiting from historically black colleges and universities. I would like to see more students that look like me.”