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NMSU’s diversity programs transition online to continue efforts to help students

As New Mexico State University students come back from an extended spring break to face the new normal of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many can be left feeling isolated and unsure how to navigate moving forward.

screenshot of Zoom workshop
Black Programs hosted a Zoom tutoring workshop on Tuesday, March 31to help familiarize the NMSU community with Campus Tutoring Services' new digital platform. They will continue to host workshops through the month of April.

To lend a helping and to ease the lonesome feeling, many of NMSU’s diversity programs have transitioned online to continue to provide students with a safe space and all the resources they need.

Black Programs will be offering its students weekly Zoom meetings to check in and provide any support needed. They are also partnering with various campus services like campus tutoring and financial aid to conduct virtual information sessions along with scheduling virtual academic and social success workshops.

“We want to make sure that there are no barriers to our students’ academic and social success. This is the time when our students need the most support because of these major adjustments and unanticipated changes,” Patrick Turner, acting director of Black Programs said. “Unfortunately, current circumstances prevent us from offering in-person services, but there is a lot of technology that allows us to do in the virtual sphere.

“As an institution of higher education, we must be flexible and nimble to accommodate all of our students, no matter the circumstances,” he added.

Turner said they have been proactively communicating with students via text, email and social media since the initial health crisis was made public to the campus, resulting in students having a normal reaction to the ever-changing circumstances. They have been available to provide answers to questions and make them aware of available campus and community resources.

“Students are very resilient, often more than older adults, so they have been going with the flow, listening to the [NMSU] president’s town hall meetings and sifting through the mass number of updates they are receiving,” Turner said. “If we continue to communicate our support, provide a platform for their voice, and offer clear answers and directions, that seem to minimize their anxiety.”

Staying true to their mission, Turner said Black Programs is open and welcoming all students who want to become members. They are in the process of updating their website to allow online enrollment, but in the meantime, students can send an email to blackpro@nmsu.edu.

LGBT+ Programs will continue to offer their student support group Thursday nights at 5 p.m. online. Counselors at Aggie Health and Wellness will still lead the support group through their telehealth system.

“We want our students to be supported, to be successful and to have the resources they need to succeed at NMSU and in the future,” Sophia Pook, director of the LGBT+ Programs said. “It is a difficult time, but know that our resources and our commitment to your wellbeing and success continues. We will make the NMSU experience great, together.”

Pook said everything they did on campus is being developed as an online resource. She has also been working with the Student Records office on gender markers and pronouns. Students will soon be able to choose their preferred gender and pronouns, the same way they can choose their preferred name in my.nmsu.edu under personal information.

Student LGBT+ programs have also transitioned online. Gender Diverse Aggies and the Gay Anime Club will be hosting their first meetings online this week and AgGays will be transitioning online the next few weeks.

To stay up to date on what LGBT+ Programs is doing, students can sign up for their mailing list on their website, https://lgbt.nmsu.edu. They can also be followed on Instagram and Facebook.

The American Indian Program will also be hosting Zoom meetings with its members to bring the social interaction back into the online student schedule.

“We hope this can help with the new experience of online learning and help get past a digital impostor syndrome,” said Michael Ray, director of the American Indian Program.

Ray said they are looking at continuing their events in a digital environment and will contact their partners to continue the community-building they have been doing on campus through our new virtual campus.

“It is important that we continue our services online because we don’t want to leave our Aggies hanging,” he said. “As we have been incorporating into our program, it’s all about Aggies helping Aggies, in addition to making a difference in the areas we are in. We also want to help create a sense of normalcy as we enter an unfamiliar area for some students.”

The American Indian Program is open to all students. Those wishing to join can reach out to the program at https://aip.nmsu.edu/aip-contact-info/.

Chicano Programs has created a private Facebook where students of the organization can openly discuss any questions or issues they may come across. That group can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/595270627999902/

They are also looking to set up Zoom meetings and chat rooms with various student organizations. If students would like to stay updated on everything the program is doing, they can be added to the mail list by emailing Joseph Durán at dujospeh@nmsu.edu.

If students have any questions regarding access to social services, scholarships, or other general questions, they can email Marisela Mendoza, the Chicano Programs coordinator at mari719@nmsu.edu.

If students have questions related to their academic situations or other general questions related to their status as a student, they can email Laura Gutiérrez-Spencer, director of the Chicano Programs directly at lgutzspc@nmsu.edu.

Ray acknowledges what a huge change this new normal is for everyone and said as we move forward, it’s always acceptable to ask questions.

“Just because we converted all of your classes online and put up some tutorials, doesn’t mean it has all magically been beamed into our heads,” Ray said. “We are learning how to use new resources, and the more we use them, the better we can navigate our digital environment.”