A single visit to the Loras College campus changed Samantha Watts’ (’22) college plans.

I grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and moved to Iowa before high school,” she explained. “Most of my high school career, I planned on going back and becoming a Colorado State University Ram. My senior year, my mom brought me up to Dubuque, and the minute I got on the Loras campus I thought, ‘This is where I am going!’ The people were extremely welcoming.”

Her excitement upon her arrival was tempered slightly by the lack of overall involvement of African American students across campus. “When I first got here, I was shocked. I have always been involved with organizations focused on minority groups, so when I got here, I just thought I would join the Black Student Union only to find that it wasn’t really an organization.”

For Watts, the only response was to make sure the Black Student Union was once again an active organization on campus, not only as a place for African American students to come together.

“Being a student of color at a predominately white school is difficult. I want them to feel like they belong here on campus and build a close-knit community. That is what we hope the Black Student Union can do.”

One of the key moments of reestablishing the Black Student Union came in the form of Black Excellence Night. As part of Black History Month, the Black Student Union hosted a night celebrating the black students and culture on campus. That event was tied to a basketball doubleheader as the women’s and men’s basketball teams hosted home games on Lillis Court.

“There were a lot of emotions that night, and it meant so much, not just to me but to the other students of color, because we put so much time into making sure that night was successful.”

For Watts, revitalizing the Black Student Union is important not only for helping make students of color feel comfortable, but also as a means to share diverse experiences with all students.

“There has been a lot of positive feedback, especially from staff. It has been nice because many of the white students on campus don’t really know about the Black Student Union, so to be able to introduce it to them and bring back the face of the Black Student Union that the staff has seen in the past has been so worth it. I love doing it, and I wouldn’t change how crazy busy I am.

“One thing we are hoping to do is increase the amount of alumni interaction. We would love to see more involvement on their end to talk to students and share their experiences. It would go a long way to making our community stronger.”

Establishing the Black Student Union as a vital component of campus life is only the start of Watts’ vision for students of color at Loras.

I really want to recruit the first years, because that first year can be hard, and push involvement. I think the community can really thrive as new students come in and feel comfortable so they can adapt quickly. There are so many resources, even in the Dubuque high schools, that I hope we can tap into to grow the number of students of color. I would like to see that number grow before I graduate.

“I am excited to see things progress in my time at Loras.”