Ben Jeter applied to colleges for both business and psychology, because he wasn’t sure which he wanted to study. He took on both – and more.
Jeter entered the Manning School of Business as an accounting major because “I heard how good the business school was.” He took some psychology classes, too, and an introductory sociology class.
The sociology class helped him understand the social forces and structures that can effect change in individuals and organizations, so he added a second major in sociology. During his junior year, a professional co-op job at investment management firm Eaton Vance in human resources brought both of his interests together.
“That was a really formative experience for me,” he says. “I was able to work with individuals and community organizations.”
He says two other first-year experiences also shaped his UMass Lowell career: living in the Business Innovation Living-Learning Community and joining River Hawk Rising, a supportive program for students from diverse backgrounds run by the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
“In River Hawk Rising, they talked a lot about getting more involved in our communities and how to take action,” says Jeter, who is from Sharon, Massachusetts. “The connections I made really empowered me to be a student leader.”
As a sophomore, he got a job as a resident advisor, helping other students make the transition from high school to college. He gently educated them on everything from hygiene to LGBTQ+ activism. He also bought them their favorite snacks to celebrate milestones.
“In my RA role, I really am passionate about social justice,” he says. “I was able to engage residents in discussions that challenged them to think about social justice and how to be allies.”
Jeter also got involved with the Black Student Union to bring his perspective as a queer Black man to the organization and lead conversations on the intersection of different identities. And then, he got elected the organization’s president.
“It’s improved my communication skills because I had to get out of my comfort zone,” he says. “I’ve always said that if you want to see an organization change for the better, you have to be part of that.”
In June 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters erupted in protests over the death of George Floyd, Jeter and leaders of other student organizations – including the National Society of Black Engineers, the Association of Students of African Origin, and the Haitian American Students Association – came together to form the Black Leadership Advisory Council to strengthen their voices and advocacy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s organized Black Student Union events on mental health, as well as on the intersection between students’ identities as Black and LGBTQ+ (a well-attended Zoom event he dubbed “Melanin and Pride”). The Black Student Union also hosts workshops on financial wellness, plus game nights and other activities to help students de-stress, he says.
His academic focus has evolved to support his personal growth. He scaled back to a business administration minor, but added a minor in gender studies to understand more about how different people experience and understand gender. Now, he plans to go on for a master’s degree in educational leadership or counseling – and go into student affairs as a profession.
“My roles as an RA and within the Black Student Union really changed my life and informed who I am today,” he says.