University of Vermont

Marie Vea-Fagnant

The diversity story, I think, is still unfolding—it’s hard to claim a starting point, or where I might be in that journey.  When I interviewed for a position at UVM, it was originally for international admissions (years ago), they said that international admissions wasn’t a priority, but we have an ALANA coordinator position that’s opening up, so I came, in July of 1999.  My number one priority was to design programs to bring students of color to campus.  And, at the time it was a really low percentage, you know, 4-5% students of color on campus, and I revamped some programs, and brought students on campus. 

I’d never been in an environment where diversity, and the lack of it, was such a topic of every conversation.  I remember thinking on it, and thinking, “this is a wonderful thing”, but there was a certain, kind of, crisis of identity that was going on at UVM at the time.  But after a while, I felt like I was selling a bill of goods to students of color coming to the University, that I couldn’t quite say for sure we were delivering once they enrolled, and I really felt like I needed to know what their experiences were, at UVM. 

So, I left admissions, plus I was raising a family, and I didn’t want to travel anymore, but I really needed to know—“so what was the journey?”—we brought them through the door, they came, and I saw them every once in a while and kept in touch, but I really wanted to know what the experience was, in their four years here.  So I became a career counselor, and I think my diversity story really has been, a lot to do with, you know how do I make meaning out of my own experience here at UVM, how do students of color make meaning out of their experience here at UVM, and getting to know other staff and faculty on campus, and supporting students in their journey.  And I think it really parallels my work as a career counselor, you know, everyone comes to the University trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, but students of color, and I’ll throw in as well, you know, first generation students, LGBTQ students, urban students that are coming to Vermont, you know, they’re all trying to figure out their place.  But students who live in marginalized kinds of worlds are trying to find their place from ten steps back. 

It’s been a really great and sometimes very harrowing journey, kind of, with the University—to figure out, “okay, what’s my place here, how do I advise students to find their place here”, for an eighteen year old, that’s just a lot of a burden to figure out.

Last modified June 15 2010 08:03 AM

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