As Social Event Coordinator for the SPAN Peer Mentoring Program, Ebony Martin ’17 is committed to helping diverse students navigate the College of William and Mary.
But, in the beginning, finding her own way was not easy for Martin, who said she needed change after a rough freshman year.
“I was like, ‘There’s nothing here for me,’” Martin said.
Martin said that she found motivation through SPAN, where, as social chair, she creates events for students to unwind and socialize with each other.
SPAN, now in its 10th year is composed of around 50 students. According to Asia Randolph, a graduate assistant for the Center for Student Diversity, the program pairs incoming students (called protégés) with mentors who share similar experiences and/or identities.
Among those who applied to the program prior to entering the College is SPAN Mentor Briana Childs ’19, who said that she was not aware of the cultural resources available to her before SPAN.
“When I got in and got my mentor, that was really when I started finding out about the diversity groups, and the, I guess the more student-based resources where you could get help just learning how to manage college for the first time,” Childs said.
Other students started in clubs unrelated to diversity. SPAN’s Mentor Education Coordinator Kate Hathaway ’18 said she had to discover those clubs on her own.
I feel like as a freshman I didn’t know of many resources like, diversity-wise or inclusive-wise,” Hathaway said.
“I feel like as a freshman I didn’t know of many resources like, diversity-wise or inclusive-wise,” Hathaway said, who did not hear about SPAN until the end of her freshman year.
Though she had missed out on being a protégé, Hathaway applied to be a mentor for her sophomore year, and is now a Mentor Education Coordinator for SPAN. She said that she was inspired by the strong friendship she shares with her protégé. Hathaway helps the current mentors navigate their role in hopes that they might form the same strong bonds with their protégés.
Alieka Reid ’18, a mentor for SPAN, said she values how students of different backgrounds and different organizations can come together under a shared appreciation for diversity.
“It’s kind of like just seeing how all of these people can be a part of these different things, but it’s all centered around a common theme,” Reid said.
Hathaway said she appreciates the inclusivity of SPAN and the safe environment it provides for students to meet and befriend each other.
“I just feel like SPAN does a great job of fostering relationships and getting people to meet one another and get out of their comfort zones a bit,” Hathaway said.
While SPAN does have requirements to maintain membership in the program, such as regular correspondence with one’s protégé or mentor and a 2.0 minimum GPA for mentors, the program strikes a balance between structure and accessibility. Every student is given the opportunity to engage in a meaningful peer relationship with another student.
Though diversity programs have the potential to be successful once students become involved, students’ opinions on what constitutes a diversity program, and what it means to be a student in a diversity program, varies.
I would define a diverse program that accepts all types of people, and not only accepts all types of people, but prepares for all types of people,” Childs said.
“I would define a diverse program that accepts all types of people, and not only accepts all types of people, but prepares for all types of people,” Childs said.
Childs continued to say that diversity programs are meant to bring awareness and give students a medium to voice their concerns.
Martin spoke on what it means to be a student of a diversity program.
“Being a student in a diverse program, in one word, it is complex,” Martin said. “It’s hard, it’s easy. You want to cry. You want to laugh. You want to have fun. You want to get down to business. Like there’s no template for that student.”
Through its organic mentor-protégé relationships, SPAN does not seem to adhere to any template. Instead, the program offers students an opportunity to discover what being a part of a diversity program means to them.