Multicultural Office Gets Up Close Look at D.C.

Students Take Pride in Nation’s History

UMass Lowell students visited the Capitol building while in Washington, D.C.

UMass Lowell students visited the Capitol building while in Washington, D.C.

12/09/2011
By Julia Gavin

“It was like history in your face,” says business student Rudy Baez, remembering his recent trip to Washington, D.C., with fellow UMass Lowell students. 

The trip, organized by the Office of Multicultural Affairs Director David Jones and graduate assistant Sade Jean-Jacques, gave 50 students a hands-on lesson in American heritage, topped off with a visit to the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial

Student Jamica Cropper-Pam says that she felt a sense of pride seeing King’s memorial standing among other American heroes. Seeing elderly people take in the memorial and parents explaining its significance to young children was especially moving for the students.

“Growing up in India, I didn’t know a lot of America’s history but had heard some about Martin Luther King Jr.,” says Swapnil Gawande, a computer science graduate student. “I learned more about him and his significance on the trip and I understand why it is important that he finally has a memorial.”

Baez, a business student, says that visiting the memorial with his fellow students was a powerful experience. Seeing the country “cherish the positive impact that King had on its history” and celebrate his life was rewarding for Baez and his friends. He says that there was a “sense of unity” on the trip that is felt throughout the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“Every moment was a highlight,” says Orson Oriol, a senior business and marketing major, of the trip, which sold out in just 20 minutes. “You can read the history in books and see the monuments in pictures, but it’s completely different seeing the Capitol in person. I had a great sense of pride during the visit, knowing all of the great history represented by the city.”

That pride extended to the students’ common connection: UMass Lowell. Many of the students are leaders on campus and look forward to using their experiences in the District of Columbia to further improve campus life for their peers. Merrytime Ebhohon, a senior electrical and computer engineering student, said she came to appreciate the University more during the trip.

“People say you never really appreciate where you come from until you’re somewhere else and I think that’s true. I met a friend who lives near Washington, D.C. on the trip and we were talking about college and the multicultural affairs group,” says Ebhohon. “I was telling her how diverse the campus is and she doesn’t have that at her school. It was great to talk to her about the experience of going to a school as diverse as UMass Lowell.”

New Staff, New Students in the Office

Jones, the former associate director of Residence Life, took the wheel of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in July. Although he has always approached his work in residence life through a diversity lens, he’s glad to focus on multicultural affairs full time. Connie Cabello, who came on as the assistant director in November after working at Bryant University, is also passionate about multicultural affairs.

“I knew that I wanted to work at UMass Lowell when I met the staff and leadership, but the students really sealed the deal,” Cabello says of meeting students during the decision process.  “They’re driven, passionate and motivated with strong work ethics and have been so welcoming.”

Jones, who has already expanded the services and programming of the office, believes that the trip to Washington, D.C. was vital to bring the new office staff and students together. He has seen an increase in students from all backgrounds countries coming through the office and working together after the trip.

“I get joy from working with the students and it’s rewarding to work with such phenomenal students and staff. The trip and resulting energy in the office really emphasizes why we’re here,” says Jones. “We’re here for the students, everything else is secondary.”  

For more information about the Office of Multicultural Affairs, including upcoming events, visit its website or Facebook page.