Coming from Cedar Rapids, Rahel Nshimirimana (’22) was drawn to Loras College due to its size. She felt she could thrive at an institution that would take the time to get to know her and push her to succeed. From her first visit, she knew the college would treat her as more than just a number.
Her first month on campus presented Nshimirimana with a challenge: to try to find a level of comfort between her social time and classroom experiences that stood in contrast to what she was expecting as well as what she was used to.
I was shocked at how much diversity I actually saw. I was expecting fewer people of color and was told before coming here that it was predominantly white, so seeing the number of people who were here who were diverse helped calm me a little. Because of that, I was shocked to realize I was the only minority in my classes, but I realize now that was due to my major (biochemistry). I was used to a high school that had different skin colors and backgrounds.”
Once she settled into the class routine and started to get to know the faculty, Nshimirimana saw that she could find a level of comfort even though the faculty she encountered were not diverse.
“Coming here and not seeing a faculty member that was my skin color was a big difference, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be welcomed. In reality, that wasn’t true as my teachers were there to support me and reached out to make sure I was comfortable. After the first month, I got much more comfortable because of all the resources that are available and because I know I am welcome on campus as much as anyone else.”
“Inside the classroom, I was surrounded by a majority of white students, but beyond that it wasn’t the same. I was able to socialize with different groups – including Latinos and African Americans – and beyond students I knew from classes. I pushed myself to get involved, and it made a big difference.”
Nshimirimana’s overall experience became increasingly more positive. The renewal of the Black Student Union made a significant difference.
Looking forward to the next three years on campus, Nshimirimana is excited for the opportunities to share and extend diversity across campus, whether it is through programs and events focused on diverse backgrounds or continuing to grow the population of minority students.
I know we will be putting in the effort to help people find comfort and feel welcome when they get to campus. I know the Black Student Union will play a role in that, as well as the other programs through the Center for Inclusion & Advocacy and the College Activities Board (CAB). Loras is not just staying in the same place, it is trying to grow and improve. We know there is a gap in the numbers, but we know we can grow diversity across campus.”
In order to continue to foster and expand the African American experience on campus, Nshimirimana feels building strong ties between current students and alumni is vital.
“I hope that African American alumni take the time to reach out to us. We could use the alumni support to share their experiences and help with the organization. We know that ‘Duhawks supporting Duhawks’ is more than just a saying and is about alumni reaching out to current students. It would mean a lot to us to hear from them and have their support as we try to build Loras to become what we want it to be and what we know it can become.”