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Bellisario Alliance For Multicultural Students Offers Space For Educational Growth

University Park holds thousands of different students with their own stories to tell, and Penn State’s beauty is partly sculpted by the background and history of each Penn Stater.

At times, these ideals can mask the help that multicultural students need. These days, groups like the Bellisario Alliance for Multicultural Students (BAMS) are giving students the chance to find unconditional support.

BAMS is a coalition of multicultural students within the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. The organization is for the “underrepresented minority students based on race, gender, sexuality, and more.”

Formed by Kaitlin Jean-Noel in the summer of 2021, BAMS originated from the need for “a welcoming atmosphere and a fostering community.”

“As an organization, we’re a place for students of diverse backgrounds to come together to have access to professional and social resources that are needed,” BAMS President Maryah E. Burney said. “We try to provide people opportunities to grow professionally and personally.”

From discussions to cultural representation within the media to career development workshops, BAMS is focused on placing its students in a place of networking. Diverse recruiters and alumni are a focal point as BAMS offers many points on a successful student trajectory.

“We try to be different from other organizations by not just providing people with professional resources, but creating an important family aspect. We call ourselves our ‘BAMily,'” Burney said. “We try to build a community.”

For BAMS, the community built is based on the qualities of life the group finds impactful. As the organization is formed with communications majors, students recognize that their BAMS peers are often the only students “who look like them within the class.” Because of this bonding aspect, there are relationships that form from “commonality and true connection.”

“We’re just trying to leave our mark on this campus and leave a legacy,” BAMS Director of Communications Maya Robinson said.

Since officially kickstarting in the fall 2021 semester, the organization has hosted professional multicultural communications speakers, internship departments and programs, conversational meetings about diversity in the media, and resume workshops.

Having access to the resources and opportunities that BAMS presents cultivates a safe space that many multicultural communications students didn’t have access to prior to the organization forming.

“Getting to be in a space with people who have similar goals, dreams, and understand what it’s like to be in the college is important,” Burney said. “Being able to have people who look like you, relate to you, and are good people is constantly comforting.”

The group says the field of communications often lacks diversity. Within Penn State’s environment, BAMS promotes exactly what it wants to see throughout the future.

“We are the initiators of change with the mindset that only white men or women can be successful in the field of communications,” BAMS Coordinator of Communications Dionne Preussler stated. “There is so much emphasis on the success of BAMS because there needs to be more representation of communications students with minority dissent.”

Gary Abdullah, the Bellisario College’s assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, has served as a backbone for BAMS’ growth. The group says Abdullah has helped BAMS become “the resource” that minority students can seek out for success.

“Outside of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, there are little to no resources for our college,” Burney said. “If you want resources, you have to go to the broader resources that the university has. They are often over-exhausted or don’t flatter everyone’s personality.”

Something that BAMS is striving for is “overall support for students of color.” Establishing more resources outside of student organizations is a goal that BAMS wants to leave along with its legacy. Outside of students in the communications field, BAMS is promoting the work of overarching inclusivity.

“To add, we never want to exclude our white peers or students who are not underrepresented,” Robinson said. “If they want to learn how to be allies with their peers who are students of color, they can come to the space to learn how to relate.”

As the organization continues to rise, members say it’s determined to keep reaching out to international, Hispanic, Asian, and more multicultural students for a location to connect, network, and grow.

Students are consistently welcome to join BAMS throughout the semester. Every other Thursday at 7:30 p.m., the Willard Media Center houses its meetings and activities. You can also keep up to date with BAMS information through its Instagram page.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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