Latinx and LGBTQ+ Communities Are Focus of Newest Inclusive Community Fellowships

Associate Professor of Modern Languages Xochitl Shuru and Professor of Theater Domenick Scudera have been named the 2020-21 Inclusive Community Fellows.

Now in the third year, Inclusive Community Fellowships (along with Inclusive Community Grants) are designed to support the college’s efforts to create an even more diverse and inclusive campus environment. The yearlong fellowships are open to all faculty members, and include a course release as well as $4,000 in funding to support projects that advance the work of diversity and inclusion on campus.

Shuru’s appointment is a continuation of her fellowship last year. With support from the Institute for Inclusion and Equity (IIE), Student Affairs, the Latin American Studies department, and the ALMA and the LATINX student organizations, Shuru will continue to support the growing Latinx community at Ursinus. While serving as a mentor to students, Shuru will develop events and activities on campus that raise awareness of the issues that affect this community. In addition to connecting Latinx students to other student groups and communities on campus, Shuru will bring members of this community together to strengthen their presence on campus and to create spaces to discuss their unique experiences.

Some of the initiatives that will carry over include the Conexiones book club. “The books we choose connect Latinx communities as we struggle in a world of institutionalized racism,” says Shuru. “Last year we read The Education of Margot Sánchez, How the García Girls Lost their Accent, The Distance Between Us and Poet X.” The club’s focus this year will be on comic books written by Latinx authors, including La Borinqueña I and La Borinqueña II by Edgardo Miranda-Rodríguez, and Miss Rizos by Carolina Contreras ’09. The hope is that both authors will participate—via Zoom—in the Si Se Puede speaker series, also created by Shuru.

“Creating a safe space via Zoom is a challenge,” says Shuru, “but students are eager to begin the programs, especially Conexiones.”

Shuru also implemented Hora de Café, an hour of social networking that takes place the first Friday of every month. This semester the discussion will focus on the topics of social justice, institutionalized racism and the portrayal of Latinx communities in our society.

The focus of Scudera’s project will be to amplify Ursinus’s LGBTQ+ community in terms of greater representation, visibility, support, celebration, recognition and community building. In collaboration with the IIE and the Gender & Sexuality Alliance (GSA), Scudera plans to create an advisory council consisting faculty, staff, board members and students; an alumni council; and a more substantial web presence for the LGBTQ+ community, including information about the GSA and Radiance. “Representation matters, and there must be some visible representation of the proud and active members of the community,” says Scudera.

Work has already begun on an open forum, which Scudera will host, and events supporting National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Scudera would also like to see increased efforts to encourage applications from members of the LGBTQ+ community in staff and faculty hiring, as well as student recruitment. Also under consideration is a book club, modeled after Shuru’s Conexiones.

“This work fits well with Ursinus’s four core questions. All of our questions—What should matter to me? How should we live together? How can we understand the world? What will I do?—are focused on one’s identity within a community,” says Scudera. “If the college largely ignores a faction of our community, students who are members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot begin to answer these questions … The support has to be visible for students to feel prepared to explore who they are and how they fit in.”

“Dr. Shuru’s recent fellowship has proven to be a great boon for awareness and inclusion of the Latinx community at Ursinus,” says Scudera. “Perhaps my fellowship can do the same for the LGBTQ+ community on campus.”

“Inclusive Community Fellowships have enriched the student experience,” says Ashley Henderson, director of the Institute for Inclusion and Equity. “As the fellows launch their initiatives, they also serve as mentors for our students. Many students are affirmed in their identities, and the fellows provide representation in a way that did not exist prior to these fellowships and grants.”