A Place for Peace

A Place for Peace

 Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson 

New Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room invites students, faculty and staff to pray, meditate and reflect

The University of Delaware’s Trabant University Center is typically a hive of activity, buzzing with students grabbing lunch or coffee or attending an event or movie.

But it will now also offer a place for prayer, meditation and reflection.

On Wednesday, Dec. 8, students and staff celebrated the opening of The Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room, located in Trabant room 223.

The new space means so much to students like Vivek Raman, who lives in an interfaith home: he is Hindu, and his wife is Muslim. He said it helps spread an understanding and oneness across faiths. “Faith should not be the measure or an association to evaluate a fellow human’s behavior,” said Raman, who is pursuing his master’s degree in business analytics and information management.

The space was secured with the support of the Division of Student Life and the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and University Student Centers. There is an existing spot, The Reflection Space in Morris Library room 233, but the new location had been on students’ wish lists for years.

Fatimah Conley, vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer, shared that she grew up simultaneously practicing Christianity and Islam, and studying Judaisim.

“My family practiced many different faiths, and my father ensured that I understood the similarities in religious and worship practices, rather than focusing on where they diverged,” she said. “I do applaud the students for coming together and helping to send the message that whatever belief you hold, there’s a space for everyone.”

Fatimah Conley, UD’s vice president of institutional equity and chief diversity officer, praised the graduate students who led the effort that resulted in the creation of the new Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room in Trabant University Center. “Whatever belief you hold, there’s a space for everyone.”

Among the students who led the charge to make the interfaith space a reality were Safiyah Mansoori, a member of the graduate Muslim Student Association, and Ioannis Chremos, vice president of student affairs of the Graduate Student Government (GSG).

Mansoori, who is pursuing her doctorate in medical sciences, remembers having no such space when she was an undergraduate at UD.

“This was a shared reality for many Muslim students and students of other faiths on campus who desired a quiet praying area,” she said.

In 2016, when UD created a reflection room in Morris Library, Mansoori and her friends were elated.

“This new interfaith space clearly shows me that big positive changes can be realized on our campus when students work together,” Mansoori said.

“The idea of having a special location where we slow down and reflect is really important,” said Louis Rossi, dean of the Graduate College and vice provost for graduate and professional Education.

Chremos said he became involved because he wanted to follow through on a campaign promise he made when running for his current position with GSG:  “to work diligently … towards a more inclusive, green campus that works for all.”

“That’s why I felt a strong duty to advocate for interfaith spaces, as it impacts so many of my fellow students, classmates and colleagues,” said Chremos, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in mechanical engineering. “All members of the GSG are seeking to create a graduate experience inclusive of all the diverse voices of a 21st century community. Our goal is to lead and build a thriving community of support, inclusion and interconnectedness for students of all backgrounds and experiences from all around the globe.”

In addition to providing a connection to faith, Stephanie Chang, director of student diversity and inclusion, said she hopes the new center will encourage students, faculty and staff to take a few moments to take a mental breather.

“The campus environment and our personal lives are busy, and it is exciting to see that we are adding to spaces on campus where we can take a moment to slow down and recenter ourselves,” Chang said.

Kim Zitzner, the liaison to the Division of Student Life for Religious and Spiritual Life, was instrumental in the process. The former long-time director of Catholic Campus Ministry drew from her massive network of campus religious leaders to help make the center a reality.

“Creating space to meet the spiritual and holistic needs of our community speaks volumes; it promotes equity as we move one step closer toward answering the needs of a vast population,” Zitzner said. “My hope is that this moves us closer toward a harmonious, all-inclusive diverse campus that meets the needs of all of its members.”

The room is featured on a new website created to help identify interfaith related resources on campus.

The ‘Global We’ at UD

The ‘Global We’ at UD

 Photo courtesy of Daniella DiMatteo 

UD’s new Internationalization Lab Report aims to shape the next generation of international education

To shape the next generation of international education, the University of Delaware will work to cultivate a sense of a “Global We,” develop globally engaged leaders, reimagine study-abroad programs, recruit students and faculty to advance global diversity, and position the institution as a global knowledge hub.

Those are the goals in UD’s new Internationalization Lab Report, which is the result of an intensive two-year effort involving experts from the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Internationalization Laboratory who worked with leaders, faculty, staff and students from throughout the University.

“As the University embarks on its second century as an innovative leader of global education, this report will be an instrumental asset to advance meaningful progress and achieve critical goals for greater internationalization,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “I want to sincerely thank everyone who committed their time, experience and insights throughout this process to articulate a bold vision and plan that will benefit students and faculty throughout the University today and for generations to come.”

Bahira Trask, co-chair of the project’s steering committee, is professor and chairperson of the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences in the College of Education and Human Development. She has participated in United Nations and other international programs to promote global education.

“This renewed global vision will help the University position itself as an international university amid constantly changing conditions, both locally and globally,” Trask said. “The renewed commitment to international education and research sets the stage to amplify UD’s impact as an international university with an optimized foundation for dynamic administration, education and programming.”

Provost Robin Morgan said that the report demonstrates that “UD is a truly global university, a global hub where people and ideas convene to solve the world’s most challenging problems through the lens of UD’s scholarship, research and community engagement. This comprehensive internationalization strategic plan serves as a roadmap for infusing international perspectives throughout the curriculum so that all UD students become part of the Global We that is UD.”

In 2019, the University joined the ACE Internationalization Laboratory, becoming one of only 177 globally focused institutions around the world who have completed the lab.

The ACE senior associate assigned to UD, Ross Lewin, associate vice president for international affairs at the University of Maryland, was joined by two senior international officers from other public universities well known for successful internationalization on their own campuses: Josh Davis, associate vice chancellor for global affairs at the University of Nebraska, and Penelope Pynes, recently retired as associate provost of international programs at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. The ACE team conducted a virtual peer site visit with UD representatives in October 2021 to discuss UD’s report and help solidify the University’s commitment to implementation. They met the provost and deputy provost, college deans and the academic leadership team, staff from the Center for Global Programs and Services, student leaders and members of the UD International Lab committee.

“UD should be extremely proud of the work it has already done to advance internationalization,” Lewin said. “Any successful internationalization plan must have buy-in from leadership, and clearly UD has that. The Center for Global Programs and Services has an outstanding reputation for its collaborative spirit, ingenuity, responsiveness and thoughtfulness, which is also a critical ingredient for leading the implementation of internationalization strategies on campus.”

The ACE report cited UD’s commitment to humanitarianism and addressing grand challenges [that] will facilitate deeper global partnerships and energize both faculty and students.

Throughout the self-study, which coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the immediate priorities became restructuring the organization of the main units that provide global programming and support services at UD. Created in February 2021, the Center for Global Programs and Services (CGPS) now serves as one globally focused unit on campus and helps strengthen campus internationalization efforts by bringing together staff, resources and expertise focused on shared goals.The center is home to the operations of Study Abroad International Student and Scholar ServicesWorld Scholars Program and Global Outreach and Partnerships. Focused on a student-centered approach, CGPS provides expert advising and a wealth of engagement opportunities to the UD campus community.

Many of the ACE recommendations will be led by CGPS with the continued support and collaboration of many partner offices and departments on campus. As defined by ACE, comprehensive internationalization is “a strategic, coordinated process that seeks to align and integrate policies, programs and initiatives to position colleges and universities as more globally oriented and internationally connected.”

According to Ravi Ammigan, associate provost for international programs and co-chair of the Internationalization Lab, with the guidance from experts from the ACE Lab that are rooted in standards of best practice in international education, the University has a strong platform to continue developing its comprehensive internationalization strategic plan. The internationalization process includes goals for a strengthened approach to articulated administrative leadership, structure and staffing; internationalized curriculum, co-curriculum and learning outcomes; faculty policies and practices; as well as innovations to enhance global student mobility, collaboration and partnerships.

“Importantly, policies, practices and initiatives will continue to develop through the lenses of diversity, equity and inclusion; agility and transformation; and data-informed decision-making,” Ammigan said. “Together with our campus partners and with the support of University leadership, we are eager to continue our work on the implementation of the Lab report.”

The full report is available on the Center for Global Programs and Services website. Questions can be directed to go-global@udel.edu.

About the ACE Internationalization Laboratory at UD

The Internationalization Laboratory is led by a team of experts with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to assist institutions in developing internationalization goals and strategies for achieving them. These educators, researchers and administrators worked with the UD internationalization committee to conduct a self-study of the University’s assets for global activity and curriculum development. Recommendations from this report will support the University’s strategic goals, specifically its priority to strengthen its interdisciplinary and global programs.

Global Growth

Global Growth

 Photo courtesy of Leaders of Free World 

Leadership program for young Black men comes to UD

It took a little bit of both to bring Leaders of The Free World (LFW), a leadership program for young Black men, into existence and, eventually, to the University of Delaware.

Co-founders Ruby Maddox and Lavar Thomas each had put in work and gained experience that formed the building blocks for such a program. Then chance stepped in when someone tagged Maddox and Thomas in the comments section of a Facebook post. The two connected and began sharing their ideas for a program that centered around an international experience for a demographic that did not have access to those opportunities.

“I thought, ‘Wow, you’re doing the idea,’ ” Thomas said. “We had a similar vision.”

They finally met in person at the Kotoka International Airport in Ghana, where Maddox would be arriving with a group of students and Thomas would be landing after his time in the Peace Corps in Rwanda had come to an end.

A world-changing idea was officially hatched amid a swarm of travellers and overpriced duty-free airport shops.

The LFW program will begin this year at UD by opening three slots to qualifying UD students. The application process began Nov. 8 and information can be found here.

LFW combines tactics proven to assist in the academic success and retention of Black men (mentorship, positive peer group affiliation, focus on self-efficacy and college/career advising) with an international experience that incorporates an identity specific curriculum and addresses the lived experiences of Black men. It works to address the lack of diversity in the social, philanthropic, public and for-profit sectors (particularly in advanced leadership positions) and to overcome the social and psychological barriers to academic and professional success perpetuated by systems of inequality. Mentorship, intercultural learning and leadership training are critical components to the program’s goal of shaping the next generation of leaders and social change-makers, who grow into involved alumni.

Thomas said he was happy to see UD step forward to make a lasting change.

“They’re putting money behind their intentions,” Thomas said. “The support that we’re receiving from leadership and the institution shows that they’re really serious about creating long-term impact and not just checking boxes off. I think the global leadership pipeline is so important, because we’re more than just a trip.”

But why Ghana?

Maddox said the country’s connection to Black history helps participants unpack their own identities. In America, Black men grow up with a set of cultural norms that dictate who gets a seat at the proverbial table and who does not. In Ghana, that is not the case.

“When you’re able to step outside of that paradigm, that context, both geographically and mentally, then you realize that’s just a construct of one particular country,” said Maddox, who co-founded a Black-led food security and environmental justice organization called Gardening the Community in Springfield, Mass. “That changes everything – you realize the world is bigger than America, and that you yourself are bigger than the construct that has been made for you. It changes the game on what you feel is possible for your life, including the career paths you might take and the opportunities you might take advantage of.”

LFW did not go abroad the past two years due to the pandemic, but the LFW In-Person Model will return in 2022 with a cohort of about 12-14 participants. The nine-month program works in three phases: a 10-week virtual pre-departure program that includes group discussions, guest speakers, lectures and assignments; a two-week international experience in Ghana where the cohort explores themes in leadership through lectures, workshops and site visits; and an eight-week re-entry program that links the experience to academic goals and campus resources through group discussions and goal-mapping.

For Thomas, it’s a concept that comes from personal experience through his trips abroad. He originally came to UD through the Coverdell Fellowship, a graduate school program for returning Peace Corps volunteers. Thomas saw an opportunity for LFW to make a change at UD, so he planted the seed with his adviser, Professor Jennifer Gregan, and began making connections around campus.

“We wanted to look at ways that LFW could support the institution and its efforts to target an underserved population,” said Thomas, an environmental justice coordinator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who is pursuing his master’s degree in International Business at UD.

Gregan said she immediately connected with Lavar and Ruby’s vision of transformation through international travel.

“As a UD study abroad faculty director, I’ve had the privilege of seeing firsthand the power of immersive cultural experiences. It is truly life changing,” she said. “By forging a partnership between LFW and UD, Lavar and Ruby are opening a door to the world for a segment of our student population who might otherwise think that study abroad isn’t for them; they’re breaking through barriers that might keep these students from realizing their leadership potential.”

“This was a perfect partnership for the University to cultivate,” said Michael Vaughan, vice provost for diversity and inclusion. “Our new Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is providing seed money to this effort to support student participants. This support provides tangible evidence of our core campus belief in promoting an environment in which all people are inspired to learn while encouraging intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, free inquiry, and respect for the views and values of an increasingly diverse global community. We look forward to our continued relationship with the Leaders of the Free World organization.”

There are numerous success stories that have come out of LFW, ranging from individuals who have simply emerged as better, more engaged leaders to others who have started their own businesses. Thomas recalls one graduate who was apprehensive and quiet before the program who eventually launched a local cooperative called New Movement that supported artists, musicians and poets back in Connecticut, while raising money for a school in Ghana.

“We watched him go from a young person unclear about his desired impact, to this leader in his community,” Thomas said. “Going to Ghana was life changing for him, because he was not only able to be part of a brotherhood that was going through a similar experience, but it got him thinking about how he could lead on a larger level, beyond his campus and beyond his community.”

Maddox and Thomas said they plan to explore expansion of the program, with LFW potentially taking multiple trips each year as well as adding experiences in Rwanda and other African countries.

Already on the schedule is the Global Leadership Summit: A Career Conference for Black Male College Students that takes place Feb. 25, 2022.

Delaware Athletics Wraps Up NCAA Inclusion Week

Delaware Athletics Wraps Up NCAA Inclusion Week

The University of Delaware Athletics Department participated in the 2021 NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign last week. With content from student-athletes, coaches, and staff, the Blue Hens used their social media channels to express their thoughts and feelings on diversity and inclusion.

The three-day social media campaign had a theme for each day.

Day 1 (Tuesday, Oct. 19): “My Voice, My Platform”: exploring student-athletes’ identities, perspectives, and experiences.

Day 2 (Wednesday, Oct. 20): “Championing Change”: outlining personal and institutional action steps for inclusive excellence.

Day 3 (Thursday, Oct. 21): “Belonging Is…”: defining belonging to support fostering communities of belonging within athletics.

The Blue Hens closed out their diversity and inclusion week with a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chat and Chew for athletics and recreation staff members.

“Athletics is often referred to as the door step to the University. With that being said, our Blue Hens family of administrators, coaches, and staff are committed to the work, responsibility, education and awareness to promote and foster a diverse culture of integrity and inclusive excellence.” – Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Natasha Adair

“I was awarded the opportunity to speak my piece to the entire student-athlete body, and in doing so I started to be seen as more of a leader on campus. And it doesn’t stop with just the talk. Through this action, we were able to form the Student-Athlete Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee at Delaware which I was fortunate enough to be selected co-chair. We will ensure that everyone who attends UD feels represented and safe to be themselves.”- Football Student-Athlete, Dejoun Lee


National Diversity Award

National Diversity Award

The University of Delaware has been presented the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. The annual HEED Award is a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is the second year UD has been named as a HEED Award recipient.

“The University of Delaware is proud to be recognized once again for the diligent and ongoing efforts of our faculty and staff to build a more diverse and inclusive community,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “We are dedicated to welcoming all students and providing them with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed here and throughout their lives.”

UD was selected for its dedication to enhancing diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the campus community. This commitment has been demonstrated through creation of new staff positions, new programming, training, scholarships and community-based partnerships focused on attracting, retaining and valuing underrepresented staff, faculty and students.

Specific areas of progress include:

  • Since 2012, the representation of underrepresented minority students and students of color at UD has consistently increased among Associate in Arts, undergraduate, graduate, and Professional and Continuing Studies students.
  • The percentage of women with STEM majors has steadily increased almost yearly at UD since 2012. The percentage of underrepresented minority undergraduate and graduate students with STEM majors has also increased since 2012.
  • Since 2012, UD’s four-year graduation rates rose for most groups pursuing bachelor’s degrees. The University’s four-year graduation rate is consistently above the graduation rates of AAU public institutions for Hispanic/Latino(a)s and women pursuing bachelor’s degrees.
  • Women faculty have increased in representation over the past five years, constituting 44 percent of all UD faculty in 2017. Faculty racial/ethnic diversity has also increased since 2012, with the largest gains occurring for Asian tenured/tenure track and Black/African American non-tenure track faculty.

Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity at UD, said, “It is encouraging to see the University’s steady progress and engagement in creating a more diverse and inclusive campus. Though there is still much work to be done, the dedication of so many staff, faculty and students in this effort is truly inspiring.”

UD will be featured along with 95 other award recipients in the November 2018 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

According to Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the HEED Award process consists of a “comprehensive and rigorous application” that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion.

“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” Pearlstein said. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being accomplished every day across their campus.”

To learn more about the University’s plans for and progress toward advancing inclusive excellence, visit https://sites.udel.edu/diversity/.

For more information about INSIGHT Into Diversity and the HEED Award, visit insightintodiversity.com. The full list of 2018 HEED Award recipients can be found here.

 | Photo by Evan Krape | 

Success grants financial literacy

Success grants financial literacy

Program offers financial support, literacy programming.

Success grants financial literacy

Senior Sarah Bencivenga was one of many students awarded a Blue Hen Success Grant, which made all the difference in keeping alive her dream for a UD diploma.

It didn’t take long for Sarah Bencivenga to know the University of Delaware was the right fit for her. The Toms River, New Jersey, native was recruited in 2013 to play softball, and by sophomore year, her bio had already included selection to the Dean’s List, Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Rookie team, the CAA Academic Honor Roll and the All-CAA Second Team.

“This was where I wanted to be,” said Bencivenga.

Then Bencivenga got an offer for a softball scholarship at Florida Atlantic University that was too good to pass up, so she transferred. UD was always tugging at her heart, though, and by her senior year at FAU, she realized how much she missed the University’s high-quality academics and yearned to complete her degree as a Blue Hen.

“It wasn’t until I was in Florida that I recognized the value of the education at UD,” Bencivenga said.

She transferred back to campus, which meant having to work hard to catch up on credits—and the costs that came with them. She was close to the finish line, but not having an athletic scholarship, she didn’t know how she would fill the gap financially and graduate.

“I am financially independent and all I had was some money saved up from jobs I held during high school and breaks,” Bencivenga said. “My first semester back at UD, I was taking 17 credits and working to pay expenses. With the combination of savings and my current job, I was able to make it work, but knew that my savings would be exhausted and the next semester may not be possible.”

She then discovered the University’s Blue Hen Success Grant. She applied and got the award, which made all the difference in keeping alive her dream for a UD diploma.

“I’m not sure how I would be graduating this spring from UD without the Blue Hen Success Grant,” Bencivenga said, who will finish in May with degrees in psychology and interpersonal communications.

The Blue Hen Success Grant program provides small awards, ranging from $300 to $3,000, to eligible students like Bencivenga who are nearing graduation but facing minor shortfalls in paying their tuition or fees. Also known as a retention grant, it provides emergency funding so that financial circumstances do not become barriers to graduation.

“The Blue Hen Success Grant program speaks volumes to the direction, purpose and responsibility the University takes to ensure students graduate,” said Carla Lord-Powalski, coordinator of the program, which is managed by the Student Financial Services office.

Give a man a fish, says the well-known proverb, and you have fed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime. In that spirit, the Blue Hen Success Grants program serves as a resource for developing lifelong financial skills. Prior to getting a grant, students must take a free course on budgeting and responsible spending. The program also guides students to the myriad scholarships available and offers workshops throughout the year aimed at increasing students’ fiscal knowledge and responsibility during their academic career and after graduation.

In partnership with various departments and groups on campus, Powalski has counseled over 550 students since the program launched in February 2017. Nearly 30 students have been awarded grants totaling $48,586, keeping them on the path to graduation. Powalksi is also partnering with the University’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations to encourage donations to the program. To date, 337 donors have contributed over $73,000, allowing Blue Hen Success Grants to expand its efforts.

“UD has given me all the tools I need to positively impact the lives of others,” Bencivenga said. “My education and experience will be lasting. Something significant will come from this work.”

 | Photo by Evan Krape | 

Financial Literacy Month events

The Blue Hen Success Grants program will be hosting the following special events for students in April in recognition of Financial Literacy Month.

Financial Wellness Fair: Tuesday, April 10, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., in the Gallery of the Perkins Student Center. Students will enjoy games, food and entertainment as they visit kiosks to learn financial skills. Participants will be able to check loan balances and repayment options, learn what their credit score means and how to improve it, and receive budgeting tools. Experts from Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, Stand By Me, and Sallie Mae will be on hand to present tips and information. Participating students will be given a financial literacy passport, which comes with a chance to win prizes including a Dell laptop, $100 Visa gift card, ice skating passes, bookstore swag and more.

Financial Literacy Mini-Series: Monday, April 23, and Wednesday, April 25, in the Student Financial Services Building lobby. Morning sessions are at 10 a.m.; afternoon sessions are at 12:30 p.m. Students will be introduced to Cash Course, a free online money management resource. Students who complete at least one online activity will be eligible to win a $25 Visa gift card. Refreshments will be provided.

Grad Fair: Wednesday through Friday, April 18-20, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Barnes and Noble UD Bookstore, 83 East Main St. Graduating students will receive information and tools on student loan repayment. Each student who meets with Carla Lord-Powalksi and completes a short quiz will be eligible to win a $50 Visa gift card.