BLI Stronger Together At William Penn University

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Students arrived back on campus this year too many unknowns. COVID-19, and social upheaval have been big factors in students lives. Professor Jenkins of William Penn University spoke about the new Black Leaders Initiative and being stronger together. It was an opportunity for students, staff, and more to share and express themselves.

And we’re out here and in the students are painting stronger together.

Jihna Jenkins

BLI, stronger together. So BLI stands for Black Leadership Initiative. It’s a new organization. I’m the faculty advisor for the Black Leadership Initiative. And our goal is to improve cultural relations within the community and on campus. And so this, since it is its first year, this is one of the homecoming events we decided to do to you know, just kind of recognize, you know. Our students are from all over the world, you know, in some of the struggles that they could be having a reminder that we’re stronger together.

Let’s talk about the group and its purpose and how it interacts within the city of Oskaloosa, Mahaska County.

And so the intent was, COVID kind of impeded a few plans, you know, for all of us. But the intent is a year to improve cultural relations. And we want to do that by having those challenging conversations. And, again, to reiterate, this is not a student organization exclusively for black students. It’s for anyone that wants to participate in that process of understanding, becoming learned, and improving our experience here, but also staying true to William Penn’s institutional mission. And so we’ll be sure to incorporate the ideas of simplicity, peacemaking, integrity, community, equality, through our initiatives, and this being the first.

When you’re sharing those cultural differences, do you find that sometimes a challenge in Oskaloosa? Do you find many people in Oskaloosa are open to the differences that that make us all what we are?

Well, when we talk about the demographic, we do understand that even in terms of voting, you know, that is a little bit different, in terms of where a lot of students are coming from. And so, this isn’t necessarily about, you know, political point of view, it’s more so about understanding why we do what we do. And so with that, when we talk about improving cultural relations, we don’t want to just have this conversation with community members. We also want to go to the high schools. We want to go to the middle schools, and we really want to tackle even the idea of unconscious bias, because it’s these associations and these experiences that really frame our way of thinking. And sometimes we have to retool, and we have to reframe, and so with that understanding experiences, is going to be having those conversations. But a lot of times it’s going to be being open minded and challenging your way of thinking and being honest about where some of those associations or judgments or influences came from. And so that’s the conversation that we’re wanting to promote.

I think, again, this is just the start of something that’s greater, you know. And again, underscores our message here where we’re stronger, you know, together. And so I think it’s important to to have some sort of declaration because sometimes people are skeptical, and they wonder, okay, what is our stance and our stance is we believe that everyone has value here at William Penn, and we want our students to feel welcome. We want our organizational constituents to understand that we’re upholding the institutional mission. And this by having organizations like this reflecting our student body that we hope to accomplish that.

Halie Heble

Tonight’s important, or we chose stronger together because we thought it was a great homecoming theme for this year, especially with everything that’s good that’s going on from COVID, and then all the things with social justice and everything. So we decided that this would be a great topic for this year. I know the college had already sent out little bumper stickers and postcards saying stronger together. So we kinda just went on with that idea for this year, because we need to be a united board, voice and force at this university. And I wanted to see this, hopefully bringing the university together.

No, we’re just the university and SGA really just wanted to make sure everybody was coming together. And we thought homecoming was the best opportunity. I know that we, I’m also the SGA representative that sits on the heritage and culture committee. And that helps out doing events like this on campus and promoting our Quaker values on campus. So we just thought it was a great way to intertwine the two.

Percy Burton

I would say the symbol stronger together is important because it signifies, I guess, the importance that, that we all matter. And our professors, our staff, our coaches, they all support us and it’s it’s very important, I would say.

It’s a little bit challenging, I would say like I really feel like it’s, it’s different this year, of course because of COVID and everything because of like Zoom. But I really feel like the professors are gone above and beyond because it’s it’s, it’s different for them because they’re they’re also jeopardizing their lives and themselves for our education. I really feel like it’s my very appreciative because just the process and everything.


So what kinds of differences do you see from home to being a part of the Oskaloosa community during the school year?

Well, I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. So it’s, it’s bigger, of course. But for me, it’s different because here you get the opportunity to like know, your neighbors and everything. Know different parts of the community. Like I never expected to actually know the president of my university. Being back home at a school in Maryland, but it’s like one big one big family. And I really enjoy it. Looking around and see seeing everyone bonding and coming together from all different nations and all different, all different places. And it just, it’s amazing, like it really makes you want to see a change in the world.

We have some artwork taking place stronger together. And that’s kind of been I guess, the theme of William Penn this year. Kind of take us through tonight why this is important for the university.

John Ottosson

Well, you know, as you see these students out here, almost said kids, but students out here. You see people from all, from everywhere, Iowa, Baltimore, California and all different races and the stronger together means exactly that. In a year of COVID when we’re, you’ve never interviewed me with a mask on before you know, but that’s what we’re doing what can we do to make life as normal as possible and and still keep us safe.

These students have been great. Professors have been great. Tonight I think symbolizes what the country needs, in spite of differences in all of us. Differences of opinions, difference of beliefs. We are as a country stronger together. If we divided where we’re weak, and I think our student body does a great job of supporting each other. Supporting the the whole campus family, faculty, staff and students, but that’s symbolically This is important because we have to be stronger this year than years past because of COVID. We have to be stronger because of the turmoil that is surrounding us also.

Posted by on Oct 13 2020. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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