The University of Oregon has announced plans for the Umoja Pan-African Scholars academic residential community on campus. Named after the Swahili word for “unity,” the Umoja community aims to cultivate a sense of belonging for students of African descent at the University of Oregon. The community was designed to meet the social and academic needs of Black-identified students through fostering an understanding of and respect for Black cultures, identities, and histories. Members of the academic residential community will gain the opportunity for an in-depth awareness of historic and contemporary experiences of African-Americans through course work, guest lecturers, programs, and community service.
The residential community will be housed in the university’s Living Learning Center. The space set aside for the Umoja Pan-African Scholars community can house up to 80 students.
EnJolí Alexander, residence life coordinator for the Living-Learning Center at the University of Oregon, stated that “in regards to student development, I was noticing my black students were reaching particular milestones later than their white counterparts. They seemed to lack a feeling of belonging and had academic struggles and mental health concerns from environmental stress. We were not giving them a space to thrive.”
“When spaces are created for underrepresented groups, it helps them feel a sense of home so they can grow,” Alexandre continued. “They get what they need to feel validated and are able to explore and grow into who they are.”