Last year, Courtland Daverne ’22 had an idea: What if there was a safe space for men of color at Saint Rose to come together and build a community? “I wanted to gather people who look like me, men of color, to make a community and have a voice for us,” Daverne says. Soon after, he founded the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (L.E.G.), a student-led campus organization that aims to help build a voice for men of color on the Saint Rose campus. “Saint Rose is a majority white female school,” Daverne explains. “I feel like in many cases, men of color are scattered. We don’t really have a voice, and our opinions aren’t heard as much. I feel that, if we come together, we’ll have a voice, and we’ll be able to have change.”
As of right now, Daverne is trying to drum up excitement for the group on campus by working with faculty, staff, and alumni to raise the group’s profile before he graduates. He’s spent the first half of the fall semester tabling at events and reaching out to other men of color at Saint Rose. He hopes he can bring men of color into his group this year, explaining that it’s important for his community to have a group on campus that will stand the test of time.
One of the benefits of being a part of a small-school community is that students are also empowered to build their own clubs and organizations from the ground up, all while learning how to take on leadership roles among their peers. Take, for example, the Golden Vybz dance team. In 2018, Afro- Caribbean students founded Golden Vybz to unite their community through dance. Therése Howell ‘22, public relations officer for the Golden Vybz, reflected on how she felt when she first joined the group. Like Daverne, Howell felt out of place when she first came to Saint Rose as a woman of color before she found Golden Vybz.
“It’s kind of hard finding friends who are from your region,” she says. “You kind of feel out of everything.” Now the Golden Vybz have 20 dancers on their team, and more than half of the new dancers joined this fall after learning about the group on campus. “I feel like [Golden Vybz] is not only a team, but a family,” Howell says.
After a year away from campus due to the pandemic, students at Saint Rose are continuing to find ways to come together. Even with over 40 clubs and organizations already established at Saint Rose, students are still working to build their own spaces. Sydney Benson ’24, a sophomore nursing student, helped found one of Saint Rose’s newest groups, the Future Nurses Association. Benson is a member of the first class of nursing students at the College since the nursing program was reinstated in 2020.
“When the nursing program was new, we went onto campus and didn’t know any other nursing students,” Benson explains. “We thought that if we started a group, other nursing students would know where to go and who to talk to, and they wouldn’t feel as lost.”
Benson and the other members of the Future Nurses Association hope that, by the time they’re seniors, the nursing program will have grown exponentially and will become more involved in the larger community through community service. She also says she hopes the Future Nurses Association will make first-year nursing students feel like they have a place at Saint Rose.
“Even if they feel lost, their home will be our little group,” she says.
This drive to create a home for students at Saint Rose is echoed in the mission of one of the College’s longest-standing student groups, Saint Rose Identity, the College’s LGBTQIA+ and Allies club. Identity, which was formed around 2004-05, has stayed strong throughout the years because of their dedication to creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students at Saint Rose.
“When you’re in college, you’re often trying to discover your identity and who you are,” says Abby Pauli ’23, secretary of Identity. “This is a safe space to do that.”
Pauli explained that Identity was one of the first places where they felt like they were home when they first came to Saint Rose in 2019. Pauli is also the president of the Jew Crew, a group on campus for Jewish students that formed Pauli’s first year at the College.
“As a Jewish student, I wanted to join a safe space for Jewish students on campus.” For Aubrey Bogart ’24, president of Saint Rose Identity, the most important thing is that Identity is a family for its members.
“Some students may not have a home that’s a safe environment for them,” she says. “I feel lucky that we can provide that for students.”
Ensuring that students feel accepted regardless of their identities, abilities, or skills is also one of the main goals of the new student-led art club, House of Arts. Gabriela Clarke ’22 switched her major from graphic design to communications after the program reduction announcement in December 2020, and she is now minoring in graphic design. From the time she took her first art class, Clarke knew she wanted to create her own club for artists at the College, but she wasn’t sure if it would be possible.
“I wanted students to have a safe space to express themselves because I felt like we weren’t getting that in the graphic design program,” she explains, adding that she didn’t have the opportunity to bring her ideas to fruition with the House of Arts until this year.
Clarke had been a member of the Student Art League, a club for art students, since her first year at Saint Rose but decided to redesign and rename the club when she took over as president this year. In the past, the club had, Clarke says, felt like it was geared toward one art form. Now, she’s inviting any and all creative students – painters, writers, musicians, and everything in between – to join the House of Arts.
“I wanted to make it a little more inclusive for everyone,” she explains. “I think that’s what’s going to make people want to join, because that’s all they want – a place where they can feel accepted. Whatever you feel home is, this is it.”
By Sarah Heikkinen
Editor’s note: The original version of this story contained an error about when Identity was founded that has since been corrected in this online version.