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Since its inception, the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services has promoted inclusion and encouraged the growth of underserved students on campus. Now, MPAS will be getting a makeover, one that will enhance existing programming and introduce new workshops that tackle relevant social issues.
With an updated mission, vision and core values, MPAS will continue overseeing its programs and scholarships, but with an emphasis on social justice. For the staff, the shift in MPAS’ mission, vision and core values was a necessary response to today’s ever-changing social environment, according to Dr. Jeannette Cruz, director of Student Support Services.
“We have been working on issues of diversity and inclusivity for decades, but we wanted to give it a structure and take advantage of all the different strengths that we have in the office,” said Cruz.
That structure will come in the form of a forthcoming social justice institute within the department. At its core: a seven-session social justice workshop series that covers topics from ableism to gun culture to religious and spiritual identity.
“We have slowly been trying to implement social justice into all the things that we’re doing,” said MPAS Coordinator Bianca Bovo. “We want to make sure that we’re touching on things that students really want to learn about.”
Because of the impact the #MeToo movement, Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQA community have had on the youth, social issues are now the focus of the programs MPAS provides to students. Janice Spann-Givens, associate director of MPAS, believes that the new institute will give students a space to discuss these issues, something she says was severely lacking on campus previously.
With the creation of this institute, MPAS also plans on creating an academic component for the office’s programs, allowing students to gain course credit while participating in workshops. Spann-Givens hopes that these changes will not only impact FIU students, but students from other universities.
“We want to be the catalyst that puts together this social justice institute to a point that other universities will look to us to model their programming,” said Spann-Givens.
Along with the new workshops, the MPAS staff will collaborate with student organizations and departments, such as the Center for Leadership and Service, for events and volunteering opportunities.
Increasing access to MPAS programs is also on the to-do list. Fully online students, for instance, will have webinars and a Canvas page at their disposal within the next year, according to Bovo. And while the most of the MPAS staff is located at the Modesto Maidique Campus, Spann-Givens assures that both campuses have and will continue to have access to similar programming.
“We do that as an effort not to leave any student out and make any student feel as if they’re not getting the same services here as they would in Biscayne Bay,” said Spann-Givens.
It’s that desire to include all students at FIU that drives the MPAS staff’s work. For Moira Lertora Chacon, assistant director for SSS, her passion for serving first-generation students stems from her experience immigrating to the United States from South America.
“I moved to Delaware and had some very bad experiences in the school system and the way I was treated by teachers. So, I feel very strongly about helping students be aware of the opportunities around them and finding their full potential and living it,” said Chacon.
Jaemin Robertson, who educates male students about sexual misconduct through the Male Mentoring Program, also reflects on the minority experience in his work.
“I think about students who look like me or students in general who need to be supported and need to have a voice,” said Robertson. “A lot of times, students don’t know where to go or what resources they have, or to that respect maybe the amount of power that they have.”
It’s this power that Robertson, and the rest of the MPAS staff, wants to instill in all the students that attend their programs.
“I just want [MPAS] to be a space where [students] can come and grow from when they’re here as freshmen until when they leave,” said Bovo. “I want them to graduate and impact the world in more ways than one.”
To learn more about MPAS’ services, programs and scholarships, visit https://studentaffairs.fiu.edu/get-involved/multicultural-programs-and-services/index.php.