Studies show that people are drawn to likeminded individuals. As social creatures, we crave a sense of belonging. Meeting others who share identities, purposes and interests, strengthens our sense of confidence, trust and security.
That’s why the College of Charleston Staff Advisory Committee to the President (SAC) is inviting faculty and staff to connect with likeminded employees through affinity groups. Comprised of faculty and staff, these groups advance and sustain a campus culture that welcomes diversity and inclusiveness.
“We knew there were groups like this at the College that were meeting informally during COVID,” says Charissa Owens, director of diversity training and education in the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID) and SAC chair. “We wanted to support the groups and formalize their visibility on campus.”
SAC partnered with the OID to support these groups with the mandate that the committees are open to everyone. And last year, the OID refreshed the Eddie Ganaway Diversity Education and Resouce Center, located in room 236 of the Robert Scott Small Building, as a space for affinity groups to meet on campus. The center, which was dedicated to Ganaway in 2013, isa hub of resources to give students, faculty and staff the support they need to be empowered in creating a more sustainable, equitable and inclusive campus.
As the first African American graduate of the College, Eddie Ganaway ’71 was a trailblazer for groups like these. In recognition of his commitment to finding ways to navigate longstanding prejudices on campus, the College awarded Ganaway a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree in 2007 and named both the Eddie Ganaway Distinguished Alumni Award and the Eddie Ganaway Diversity Education and Resource Center in his honor of him .
RELATED: Find out more about the legacy of Eddie Ganaway ’71, the College’s first Black graduate.
Today, the center maintains his legacy, offering a safe and inclusive space for community social hours, group meetings / gatherings and affinity groups like the LGBTQ + Faculty & Staff Coalition, which brings LGBTQ + employees and allies together to support one another, and the Whipper Grant Caucus, a group of self-identified Black / African American employees and allies that uplifts, empowers and advocates for the interests of its members.
“The words community, belonging and family come to mind when I think of the Whipper Grant Caucus, ”says member Kenyatta Grimmage, associate director for access initiatives and pre-college programs in the Office of Admissions. “It’s like the dinner table – a safe place, a judgment-free zone to break bread, air grievances, be encouraged and empowered to do the work we all so deeply care about. After every meeting I feel as if I’ve been hugged! “
Another member of the Whipper Grant Caucus is Jocelyn Evans, professor of finance and associate dean of undergraduate programs in the School of Business, who says affinity groups are valuable because they give voice to faculty and staff that might otherwise be unheard.
“It’s difficult to connect with others at the College when we are in separate buildings,” she says. “Affinity groups provide input on academic issues – such as the race, equity and inclusion curriculum proposal – and social justice issues, such as the importance of supporting the African American museum. Affinity groups are an important first step to inclusion and belonging. “
Faculty and staff may use the SAC Affinity Groups Interest Form to join one or more of the two existing affinity groups and / or propose a group they would like to see formed on campus. Whether it’s a group for vegetarians or for women in the workplace, all suggestions are welcome. Please note that this form collects email addresses to help SAC connect users with the group they’re interested in joining or developing.