On Nov. 2, the first ethnic studies organization in the United States moved its headquarters to VCU.
The National Association for Ethnic Studies (NAES), founded in 1972, is a national nonprofit that works to remind young minorities of the importance of their role in today’s multicultural society. Now located within the political science department in the College of Humanities and Sciences, NAES will give students multiple opportunities to get involved in NAES activities and scholarships.
According to the NAES website, it is the nonprofit’s goal to challenge paradigms that systematically marginalize the experiences of diverse populations, both nationally and internationally. NAES members are also committed to educating students about cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Ravi Perry, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, recently became the president for the NAES Board of Directors.
“Ethnic studies is integral to liberal education and global progress, and equal justice for all,” Perry said in a press release. “We believe these goals fit well with VCU’s mission and we’re excited about our future.”
According to Perry, VCU is an “institution on the move.” Among the 31,163 students that make up the university’s student body, 108 countries are represented. This includes Saudi Arabia, India, China and Kuwait. With its urban location and commitment to inclusion, Perry said he believes that NAES will develop steadily at VCU.
As of fall 2014, 40 percent of the VCU population were students of color. In comparison to other major Virginia universities, like Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary and James Madison University, VCU has the most diverse student body. In 2014, these universities had 23 percent, 26 percent, 27 percent and 17 percent of their population made up of students of color, respectively.
Deidre Condit, associate professor and chair of political science, said NAES will strengthen the political science program’s commitment to interdisciplinary education.
“It is an exciting and historic moment in VCU’s growing commitment to inclusive education, scholarship and community engagement, as the addition of both Dr. Perry and the NAES clearly demonstrates,” Condit said.
Since its start, NAES has worked to raise awareness of the concerns of underrepresented minorities and provide a platform for these concerns to be talked about in an academic setting. A main goal of the organization is to ensure a more equal curriculum in schools across the nation in hopes to provide minority groups a chance to learn about their own history and culture as well.
Students interested in getting involved with the program are able to apply for access to the conference, as well as for various awards the association offers undergraduates for their research pertaining to relevant topics.
The program’s main event is an annual conference where scholars, students, activists and anyone else interested in engaging in cultural reform come together to share ideas, form dialogues, view films and present research on different aspects relating to ethnic studies and the improvement of race relations. The next conference will be held this spring at the University of Arizona.
“It is an excellent way for students to participate in an interdisciplinary forum,” Perry said. “It serves as a place to get audience engagement and feedback on your work as well as presenting research, gaining support, and forming connections.”
Article by: Maura Mazurowski, News Editor
& Megan Corsano, Contributing Writer
Print News Editor, Maura Mazurowski
Maura is a junior cinema and journalism student. She’s interested in combining investigative journalism with filmmaking, and is a contributing writer for the online publications Elite Daily and Literally Darling. Before transferring to VCU, Maura was news editor for the student paper at Virginia Tech, the Collegiate Times. // Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Portfolio