EMU Honors College students and staff lead workshop on enhancing diversity and inclusion at National Conference

In October, Assistant Director of the Honors College, Jieron Robinson, and three Eastern Michigan University Honors College students headlined a lively 75-minute workshop on enhancing diversity and inclusion in Honors education at the 6th Annual conference of the National Society for Minorities in Honors (NSFMIH). The three-day conference, held October 14-16 at Ball State University in Muncie, IN, featured presenters from across the country and focused on efforts to bring greater attention to antiracism and intersectionality in Honors programs.

Brianna Terrell, Ondrakus Smith Jr., Tierra Tresvant, and Jieron Robinson
From left, Brianna Terrell, Ondrakus Smith Jr., Tierra Tresvant and Jieron Robinson headlined a workshop on enhancing diversity and inclusion at the NSFMIH conference in October.

EMU’s workshop, “Setting the Stage: First Steps toward Enhancing Diversity and Inclusion in The Honors College at Eastern Michigan University,” included both collaborative and interactive components and was one of only two sessions to include Honors students as presenters. Student presenters were: Brianna Terrell, president of the Black Honors Student Organization (BHSO); Ondrakus Smith Jr., BHSO Treasurer; and Tierra Tresvant, Honors College Diversity Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Fellow. A generous grant from EMU Women in Philanthropy funded the students’ travel. 

The workshop, which emerged from multiple BHSO and Honors College DEI initiatives and events that occurred over the past academic year, offered conference participants tools and resources for initiating similar efforts at their own institutions. Since joining the Honors College as Assistant Director in March 2020, Robinson has made diversity and inclusion a priority of student programming and activities, beginning with his creation of the Honors College DEI Student Fellow position, which helped catalyze additional initiatives. The NSFMIH workshop detailed the concrete steps he and Honors students have taken to elevate the experiences of marginalized students at EMU. 

Among the first steps Robinson and the students pursued included relaunching BHSO, writing a diversity statement for the Honors College, and creating HC Talks, a program designed to give marginalized and minority students a place in the Honors College to come together and talk about events affecting their communities. Smith, Terrell and Tresvant provided student perspectives during the workshop on BHSO and DEI efforts.

In addition to presenting at the workshop, Robinson and the EMU Honors students participated in discussions focused on recruiting and retention efforts and curricular revision in Honors education. The input and participation of the students showcased the collaborative student and staff work at EMU.

Terrell, a senior biology major and Honors College recruiting Fellow, observed that many schools are still struggling to find ways to increase representation in leadership roles and recruitment efforts.

Tresvant, a sophomore public and nonprofit administration major, added that the NSFMIH conference highlighted how Honors programs need to recognize varied needs, especially when recruiting and retaining marginalized students. “Minority and low-income students have different traumas that they have to get to college in spite of, so they need different forms of support to get through it,” she said.

“It was really beautiful to see how this wasn’t just a Michigan thing,” said Smith, a senior biology major. “I loved the real dedication [everyone] put in to come hear about diversity. People were very receptive.”

The EMU Honors College presenters are continuing the conversations on enhancing diversity and inclusion in Honors they provided at the NSFMIH conference, beginning with an invited talk to the Honors program at West Virginia University on November 30th. 

“There is a strong desire for all students to have a sense of belonging” in Honors education and programming,” noted Robinson of the continuing interest in the panel. “That is the root of what we are doing” at Eastern.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

December 08, 2021

Written by:
Kaley Plaxton

Darcy Gifford