Graduate Student Association to help students find belonging at Diversity Gala

The Graduate Student Association prepares for a larger-scale Diversity Gala this semester. Lariat file photo

By Sarah Gallaher | Staff Writer

Based on the core themes of care and belonging, the Graduate Student Association will host its second Diversity Gala from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 29 at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. The gala will include a variety of speakers and panelists, bringing the Baylor and Waco communities together for a conversation about the importance of diversity.

Fourth-year Ph.D. student and GSA president Anna Beaudry said the gala will be on a larger scale this semester. The groups present will feature a variety of backgrounds that celebrate different aspects of diversity, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and age.

“Our big focus for the diversity gala this year is care and belonging, particularly beyond the bounds of Baylor,” Beaudry said. “Since most graduate students stay in Waco longer than undergraduate students do, we really want to help them connect with a strong community outside of Baylor so they have multiple networks of support to rely on during their graduate career.”

Last semester, the Diversity Gala welcomed Dr. Stephen Reid, the vice provost for faculty diversity and belonging, as the keynote speaker. This year, Dr. Coretta Pittman, the new associate dean of diversity and belonging for the College of Arts and Sciences, will headline the event, followed by a group of panelists.

First-year Ph.D. student and theology and philosophy librarian Ezra Choe said the gala is “a visual way of representing our community.”

“GSA is a place for like-minded people, people who want to gather,” Choe said. “We just want to … promote that place of belonging, because we think that everybody belongs here, and there’s a reason why you’re here. So we want to make those spaces for people at Baylor.”

Since the inaugural Diversity Gala in April, Beaudry said GSA has put equity in action, advocating for the needs of international students, which are a historically underrepresented group at Baylor. In September, the Graduate School announced the addition of two new housing options for graduate students — something GSA had been advocating for.

“International students have been a real focus in trying to increase resources for them between last April and now,” Beaudry said. “One area of progress is getting an additional 20 apartments set aside for international graduate students. International students often don’t get offers until mid-summer, which really impacts their ability to find affordable housing within walking distance of campus.”

According to Choe, GSA hopes to further opportunities for underrepresented groups, such as international students, and the Diversity Gala will offer unique perspectives on how this can be done. By welcoming outside groups, GSA can provide more opportunities for graduate students to find a sense of belonging.

“We are looking forward to being able to connect graduate students to these Waco resources for finding community beyond the wonderful resources that they have at Baylor,” Beaudry said. “We want them to become Wacoans while they’re here, not just Baylor Bears.”