iBelong Grants Continue to Foster Campus Inclusivity at UNCG

Posted on April 12, 2024

Three photos of the participants in the Native Fashion Show

Fostering an inclusive environment at UNC Greensboro is in the hands of everyone on campus, but the Division of Student Affairs aims to make it easier with its annual iBelong project grants.

In the 2023-24 academic year, Student Affairs awarded funding to nearly 20 projects to promote student belonging at UNCG. The effort started in 2019 with a campus survey to learn how the University can better promote an inclusive climate. Student Affairs continues to send out the survey. In 2023, 78% of undergraduate students and 81% of graduate students report being satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at UNCG.

The iBelong projects are an effort to continue helping everyone feel a sense of belonging with students, faculty, and staff encouraged to apply for the grants. The 2022-23 projects saw the largest amount of grant awards in the program’s history.


Terry Chavis, president of the Native American Student Association (NASA), used funding from the iBelong grants to focus on Indigenous belonging at the University.

“Our Native students are some of the lowest enrolled student populations in higher education across the board, at many institutions in the United States,” says Chavis, who is a doctoral student focusing on educational studies with a concentration in higher education. “UNCG has a unique opportunity since Greensboro has a relatively large Indigenous population within the state.”

The project was NASA’s first Indigenous Fashion Show, held in the Ferguson Building in March to showcase contemporary Indigenous clothing.

“We Native students don’t get to see ourselves and our traditions around campus. We only get to see it once or twice a year at the Powwow hosted by Guilford Native American Association and the Pow Wow at UNCG. This is a time where we thought we could showcase our contemporary regalia: bearded earrings, medallions, ribbon skirts, ribbon shirts, and how we wear those in everyday life.”

As an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, Chavis says NASA helped him find community at the University. This fashion show was a way for others to see that community and showcase Native excellence.

“Each item, even each piece of ribbon, has a special meaning to this individual, so as they walk down that runway and across the stage to show their regalia, not only is it a very impactful opportunity for the larger audience, but it’s impactful to that Indigenous student who is able to say, ‘I am a student at UNCG; there’s not a lot folks out here like me.’”

Participant in the Native Fashion show at UNCG stands in a purple outfit.


Matt Fisher, who runs the Student Educator Learning Factory (SELF) Design Studio in the School of Education, is continuing his 2022-23 iBelong project titled “Thanks For Being A Good Human.”

The project includes art pieces that are created in the SELF Design Studio and then handed out to UNCG community members as an act of kindness. For Fisher, the effort was born out of a need for connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. It later turned into a project of giving laser engraved magnets to people at concerts to help them enjoy their experience.

“It was awesome, but then I realized I wanted to do it every day,” says Fisher. “So, I was at my computer and the phrase ‘thanks for being a good human’ came to mind, thinking about what I would say to someone to just appreciate them. It changed how I looked at the world, so instead of looking around and seeing things that are depressing and out of my control, I look for people doing kind things just randomly out of the blue.”

Students work in UNCG’s SELF Design Studio for the “Thanks For Being A Good Human” Project.

One of the recipients of the project was biology major Alex Nolan, who now helps Fisher with the process of creating items and giving them out.

“I was a transfer student and in the first few weeks of school I didn’t really know anybody,” Nolan says. “I was walking through the EUC and Matt approached me with this little round magnet and said, ‘I want you to have this,’ and he gave it to me and said, ‘Thanks for being a good human.’ It just made my day so much better.

The project doesn’t just include magnets. Nolan has helped create flowers out of felt along with bottle caps, key chains, and bracelets. A group meets each week to continue making items and prepare to give them out. This year’s iBelong grant has helped Fisher continue the project and increase the number of people participating.

“I wanted to create as much joy and happiness for as many people as possible,” Fisher says. “It’s nice to have the feeling that you made someone’s day.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona and David Lee Row, University Communications

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