Defining what it means to belong at UNC Greensboro is difficult: everyone has a unique answer. This year, 24 iBelong projects are working to give their own answer with actionable solutions.
The UNCG iBelong project started in 2019 with a campus survey intended to find out how the university can better promote an inclusive climate. This year, the Division of Student Affairs has awarded funding to a record 24 projects.
For some, the projects are personal, a chance to help others have a better, more inclusive university experience.
More than my disability
“The perception of people with disabilities is that they are somehow broken or less than, or less capable,” says Rose Ewald, the treasurer of the Zeta Phi chapter of Delta Alpha Pi (DAPi). “We are trying to change that perception.”
DAPi’s “More Than My Disability” campaign aims to have the campus community look at disability in a different light. The honor society, which recognizes academic achievement for students with disabilities, is inviting campus community members to have their photo taken in January and then share information about themselves to shed the stigma around disability.
“We want to see people from all different backgrounds with visible disabilities and invisible disabilities, and really make people look at it and realize that there’s a very broad range to what disability looks like,” says Natalie Adams, the president of the Zeta Phi chapter of DAPi.
The “More Than My Disability” photos will be placed in Elliott University Center (EUC).
“There’s a very broad range to what disability looks like, it doesn’t look like one thing.”Natalie Adams, President of the Zeta Phi Chapter of Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society
Belonging can also mean existing in a safe environment on campus.
“Students don’t feel included if they’ve been harmed or experienced violence by another student,” says Megan Karbley with the Title IX office at UNCG.
Title IX UNC Greensboro will host a five-week program for students to learn about power-conscious approaches to sexual violence prevention, specifically exploring the historical context of sexual violence.
“We often hear one in four or one in five women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. A lot of people are familiar with that narrative,” Karbley says. “What power conscious approaches look at is why that ratio exists in the first place.”
Karbley says those who experience sexual violence often don’t feel connected to the community because they have experienced trauma, harm, and/or violence. In some cases, the harm or violence they experience may cause them to leave the community altogether.
“It changes the way someone experiences college,” Karbley says.
Students involved in the program will also design a campus-wide campaign to address sexual violence that focuses on the harm-doing behaviors rather than how to avoid being harmed.
“This project hopefully will give the students participating in the program a real sense of connection and a sense of responsibility to prevention that’s in their own words and not through a lens of what the institution thinks is best for them” says Karbley. “We really want them to think: this is ours.”
When former UNCG Japanese Club and Korean Student Association President Liam Kim-Martin ‘22 received a call for help from a Japanese international student struggling to belong at UNCG, they decided to take action.
“She and her roommate came during the COVID-19 pandemic and a lot of the support systems that used to exist at UNCG for international students had shut down,” says Kim-Martin. “Her roommate actually went back to her home country early because she was depressed, and everything was so hard for her here.”
The international student asked Kim-Martin if they could help create a support system for international students. Through their iBelong project, Kim-Martin plans to start regular meetings and eventually field trips for international students.
“Hopefully it will help these international students feel like they’re a part of the UNCG community,” Kim-Martin says. “A lot of the students just felt like they’re existing here. They came to have this study abroad experience, but it doesn’t feel like they’re able to have that one-to-one connection with other students because of cultural or linguistic barriers.”
“Hopefully with this project, international students will be able to get to know people more regularly with these meetings and able to have fun and explore.”Liam Kim-Martin ’22, former UNCG Japanese Club and Korean Student Association President
Senior Maya Hayes says she hasn’t always felt there was a place specifically for Black women to come together at UNCG.
“UNCG does a great job overall of diversity and making everyone feel included,” Hayes says. “I just needed something specifically for Black females.”
Her iBelong project, Crowned Success, is a series of events focused on the Black female community to help them with life after college. The events will focus on professionalism, mindfulness, and workplace issues that Black women may face. Hayes is working on the project as an intern for On Earth Peace, a Maryland-based non-profit organization focused on nonviolence education.
“To be crowned in success means you have reached growth and gained confidence in success, in this case success within professionalism and life skills,” says Hayes. “I wanted to give Black women a space just to talk, to express how we want to make changes on the UNCG campus.”
“I wanted to tie in professionalism to my iBelong project because I realize a lot of students do not feel confident enough to leave college and enter the workforce and prosper in it and that’s the whole point of entering college.”Maya Hayes, UNCG senior
The UNCG iBelong project launched in 2019 with a campus survey to find out how the university can better promote a climate where everyone feels supported and welcomed.
Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications