By ANDREW A. LAMBERT
In an effort to support and encourage multicultural freshmen women, BYU Women’s Services and Resources is sponsoring a banquet tonight in the Wilkinson Center.
The banquet, involving approximately 70 freshmen women, will feature Jan Scharman, assistant vice president of Student Life and Dean of Students, as the keynote speaker.
Wynante Sewell, a senior from Port Antonio, Jamaica majoring in psychology, said the theme of the evening is “Out of Many, We Are One.” Sewell works with Women’s Services and Resources and organized the banquet.
Jean Taylor Scott, coordinator of Women’s Services and Resources, said the activity is partly in response to President Bateman’s goal of strengthening BYU freshmen.
The freshman year is the most critical for students to decide whether to continue at BYU, according to Richelle Andersen of the multicultural office. In this pivotal year, Andersen explained, students either find their niche or lose their desire to attend BYU. Accordingly, tonight’s activity is geared towards freshmen women.
In addition to first-year challenges, these women face additional barriers because of their ethnicity. Of the different ethnic groups at BYU, black female students seem to be the most at risk for discontinuance, Andersen said.
Surrounded by an overwhelming majority of white students, black students often feel alone. The women generally struggle more than the men, Andersen continued.
According to Scott, the purpose of the banquet is three-fold: to research the challenges multicultural women face, to help them know what support is available and to allow them to mingle with other multicultural women.
The women, divided into several focus groups, will discuss the barriers and supports they have found at BYU. The groups will discuss issues like dating outside of ethnic groups and how to deal with stereotypes, Sewell explained.
Andersen said she looks forward to discovering how to help these women better. “It’s really an excellent opportunity to find out directly from the students what their needs are,” Andersen said.
The event will also make these students aware of support that is available to them here at BYU. Club presidents from the Black Student Union; Salsa, a club for Hispanic-Americans; and Tribe of Many Feathers, a club for Native-Americans, will be present at the banquet to promote club involvement.
Founded in 1992, Women’s Services and Resources works to help all BYU women succeed, Scott said. Tonight’s banquet is the first they have sponsored specifically for multicultural freshmen women.
Scott said she hopes the event will offer much needed support and encouragement to these women early in their college career.