The tweets, the comments, the articles that people have to read, listen to, and face every day: “Dr. Ford is obviously lying, how could you remember something from 36 years ago and not say anything when it happened?” “If people had a problem with kids being locked up in detention centers, maybe their parents shouldn’t have come here illegally in the first place.” “It’s not a Muslim ban, it’s a temporary ban to make this country safe again.”
There is a feeling people get when those things are said or brought up. Palms start to sweat. An internal fire is ignited and begins to burn. The heart accelerates and pounds, as the thoughts try to catch up with it. The jaw clenches to holding back its tongue from saying something that could result in detrimental backlash.
In a country that seems to be more divided than ever, finding common ground and accepting change can be harder for some than others. Not just as a country, but even in neighborhoods or classrooms.
As the Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Springfield College, Felicia Lundquist has experienced this first-hand.
Lundquist grew up in a multiracial/multiethnic family, specifically identifying as African, Chinese and Swedish American. At first, she was told that she was the best of all worlds, and grew up without fully comprehending the magnitude of the racial issues in the world. She became more aware of herself and identity when she went away to college.
“I went to a very large PWI Predominantly White Institution, UMass Amherst, and it was an amazing experience,” said Lundquist. “And at the same time, I was navigating being the ‘other.’ similar to what a lot of our students have to do now.”
She has since selected a career devoted to helping students who feel like “the other.”
As Director, she has changed the Office in unimaginably creative ways for the last three years. She is also an adjunct faculty member, who teaches “Foundations of Multicultural Education” and reaches a group of students who might not ordinarily utilize the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
She knew she wanted to be involved with Multicultural Affairs after obtaining her Master’s degree in Higher Education with a focus in education, research, policy and administration at UMass Amherst.
“I really wanted to work in either Student Affairs or Multicultural Affairs and I had shared that information with a friend of mine, and whose aunt used to work here with Mr. WIlson, my late predecessor,” Lundquist shared. “A few years later, [after her predecessor John Wilson passed away] the position for Director of Multicultural affairs opened up… it was in alignment with my desire to work with diverse populations and serve as an advocate, an ally to students that reflect who I am.”
Throughout college campuses across the United States, often people of color have a hard time fitting in or finding their place. Springfield College is no exception. Lundquist has spoken with students that have reached out regarding their discomfort in a variety of aspects of campus life, including their living spaces, classroom settings, and clubs/organizations.
“They feel like they can fit in, but they don’t feel like they belong,” said Lundquist, of one student who shared a conversation about his or her place here at Springfield College. This student is not alone. Many share this idea of feeling like they can look, talk, and easily blend in, but do not truly feel accepted on campus.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is one that can often be misconstrued, given that Springfield College is a Predominately White Institution. According to the Undergraduate Admissions Office, the incoming class of 2017 had a racial demographic spread of: 70.8 percent White/Caucasian, 23.2 percent Students of Color [Black African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Asian], 5.2 percent Unknown, and 0.9 percent International.
“Historically people have seen this Office as an office for students who are Black and students of color, and the reality is, as we build and experience the changing demographics and the need for increased support, there’s a lot of marginalized groups that are left out,” she said. “We want to be here for all students, especially if they are engaged in social justice and inclusion.”
Lundquist has described her transformation since working at Springfield College as she’s become more knowledgeable, transparent, vocal, wiser and empathetic. Her idea of inclusion has also deepened, as the culture of society has evolved.
“I find that you learn the most when you’re uncomfortable,” Lundquist said. “You gain more information, and then you might be able to connect to it or even honor somebody else that you may not have known about their backgrounds… being able to admire and appreciate people for who they are.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs provides a vast variety of tools for students to gain and take with them as they continue their journey of schooling and eventually the real world. Between Pre-Orientation through the Cultural Connections Leadership Program, which is a starting base for students at Springfield College to keep them connected to the Office, speakers who have visited to orchestrate discussions about different social justice issues, and getting students involved with other clubs and organizations on campus via connections through the Office, Lundquist is determined to help empower all students on campus.
“How I hope to influence individuals is to spark something within them, that ignites the power within themselves, to feel the power that they have,” she said. “Being able to feel confident in who they are, as their authentic self. Being comfortable to challenge things that don’t feel right to them, that oppress them and hold them back.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs is located on the 3rd floor of the Campus Union, and is available via phone at: (413)-748-3249.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Multicultural Affairs