Athey: Honoring diversity and diversifying honors

Mackenzie DineenFeatures Editor

Director of the Honors Program Professor Stephanie Athey and Director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity, and Inclusion Jesse Tauriac are teaming up. “I think of this collaboration as a pretty natural one,” said Professor Athey, “Honors has always been interested in honoring diversity and in diversifying the honors program.” 

According to Athey, inclusion is often an afterthought for higher ed. Honors programs are inherently meant to single out and signal an elite, and that often means excellent test-takers. Honors programs are comprised, mostly of white middle class women. “Lasell is distinctly working against this model of elitism, the honors program here encourages teachers to look for students outside that type because they are honors students too,” she said.

On the collaboration, Tauriac said, “It has been an absolute delight to partner with Professor Athey in our efforts to promote more racial, ethnic and socioeconomic status diversity throughout the Honors Program.”

Tauriac and Athey regularly attend conferences together, and will bring a group of honors students to the Boston College Diversity Conference this year. They are planning focus groups to investigate how to make the program more inviting, while trained honors students will conduct discussions about barriers that might exist for others in perceiving themselves as an honors student.

Lasell is about to graduate the first class of students who underwent Honors 205. The course is focused on social justice and structural racism, a subject both professors accredit U.S. national higher education curriculum’s to abdicating.

Class sections focus on Race and Space, Intersectionality and Native American arts and societies. Each section is taught by Esther Pearson, Margo Lemieux, Karin Raye, Jesse Tauriac, Sara Beth Golden, Denny Frey and Steph Athey. The Honors Program looks forward to a tag-team between Tauriac and new fashion professor, Tene Wilkins in the Spring.

Senior fashion communications student Danielle Hogan said that Race and Space “really did change my perspective into believing that racism isn’t a societal challenge, it’s reflected heavily in our government through means that most people aren’t aware of.” Components are projects that connect student’s learning to experiential projects of their own interests. For Hogan’s final component, she will develop a mock business plan for a sustainable denim brand based out of Angolia.

“The Honors Program allows me to dive deeper into topics by looking at them from a global perspective,” said senior psychology major   Emily Hyunh. Her project is focused on Asian-American narratives in higher education.

“Too often, Asian-American’s racialized experiences are rendered invisible due to the prevalence of black-white conversations about race,” said Hyunh.” Through this component I will be exploring how social dynamics in Asian countries around the world are relevant to the challenges that Asian-Americans face when living in a country where they do not always see familiar faces. I am relating my research and investigations to explore different on-campus programming possible through the Donahue Institute.”

The IC3, Honors Program and Donahue Institute are more integrated than people realize. Many honors students Tauriac met during his own Honors 205, now work or intern for the Donahue Institute.

Tauriac and Athey agree that everyone with access to Lasell should have access to the opportunities available through the honors program. “If they don’t they’re not getting what they paid for,” Athey said, “At the price of this college we need to do better. We need to make a special effort to be champions of broader curricular offerings, the university is supposed to offer a universe of knowledge.”

Sophomore, communication major Ruth Kehinde said, “people think ‘you have to be smart to get in’, or ‘oh my God, I’m not a perfect student,’ but that’s not the case.” Kehinde entered the Honors Program as a freshman, “they helped me find friends, we went on trips, I’ve helped with events like laser day – the program has really helped me to get out of my comfort zone. I feel like the combination would be beneficial for students and offer students help and resources.”

The Honors Program aims to welcome, encourage, and incentivize students of color to see themselves as Honors students and recognize its responsibility to assist the rest of the college. The school has raised no impediments, and the programs’ greatest obstacles thus far have been the logistics and time necessary to develop these ideas further.

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