This Month:

August 2020: Keyana Robinson

Aug 10, 2020 | Spotlights | 2 comments



 Name: Keyana Robinson

 School: University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Year: Junior 

Major: Business

Minor: Art

Orgs: Black Student Union, Applied Health Sciences, Sisters, African Film Society


Personal Bio:


I’m Keyana D. Robinson, a multi-disciplinary artist and activist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I am an incoming junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in business marketing. I spend my free time painting, cooking, reading Black women writers,  and making short films dedicated to life’s experiences. The past two years of  living in Chicago and learning collegiate and life lessons has been a wonderful experience for me thus far.

Since I’m basically a transplant to Chicago, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first came to the city. Though I’ve frequently visited in previous years, I had primarily stayed in the west loop or visited family and left it at that. While living and attending school in the city, my world really opened up to a diverse culture of Black and Brown people on and off campus.

Before starting my freshman year, I attended a retreat for incoming Black students through UIC’s African American Academic Network. This essentially solidified my entry into Black life on campus and gave me a home base to come to and find comfort. I still keep in contact with most from the retreat.

Though I found comfort in those early months of freshman year, I soon realized how little comfort I would receive outside of my immediate circle.

With the small 8% at UIC, we, Black people are underrepresented, often overlooked, and marginalized on our own campus. This led me to seek out the Black Student Union to find the comfort that I had become accustomed to coming from a predominantly Black high school, middle, and elementary school.

When I initially joined as a member, I found my voice amongst my Black peers, but also as a young woman trying to find ground in loose soil, eventually leading and calling me to want to serve others as I was so graciously served my freshman year through BSU, Sisters, and AAAN.

Now, as an incoming junior, I have found a voice and confidence that I didn’t fully know I possessed; so much so that I currently serve on the Black Student Union, African Film Society, and Applied Health Sciences board and recently joined a Student Life Task Force dedicated to improving the experience of Black students on campus. The end of freshman year was an epiphany for me to follow what I am led to, nurture those gifts, and lead with faith.

Though I appreciate the titles that I have among these organizations, I am grateful that I can meet and work with wonderful and talented activists and artists from around the country and world fighting to be the change and see the change. I hope that the collective work that I and so many other students are doing will carry on into the future.

I’m looking forward to continuing my journey this fall semester…

How would you describe the blk community on your campus?

At UIC, our Blk community is unique. Since there are so few of us, everyone knows everyone for the most part, or eventually will know each other, and we, in ways work as a unit. For Blk students that live off campus, most people staying on campus try to be warm and to friends or familiar faces. Much like a family, occasionally people have differences of opinion, but there is a closeness knowing that we are the minority and have to make the best of it. .

What do they need? What do they want?

Our Blk community needs to grow and actually be fully recognized on campus. There also needs to be more Blk teachers and teacher’s assistants to help students on campus. For the most part, we want more people that look like us in classrooms and in high positions since Blk is a face that makes up so much of Chicago and its culture. 

How has your school responded to these needs and wants?

 UIC puts in some effort, but not enough. While it is a “POC” serving institution, oftentimes Blk students, specifically, get left out of the loop. While many directors in place are currently attempting to promote either Blk organizations or students, it often feels ingenuine and a way to promote “diversity” on campus for appearances.

What have you done to improve the student life of black students on your campus?
Even though I always feel that I can do more, I remain present and supportive of all events on campus and make sure to connect with other Blk students. I connect to help build a support system among us so that there are several “shoulders” to lean on when help is needed. I do this through finding organizations or individuals who are looking to provide support where needed. I also love cracking jokes to brighten my friends’ days.

Why did you choose to attend a PWI over a HBCU? 

I think for many Blk students, cost is a big determiner of which college they go to, especially for many HBCU’s which are often private. I would definitely be one of those students. While I originally planned on going to Howard, UIC was more cost effective, but also felt more comfortable and familiar to me since it was in Chicago and not too far from home. I felt that even if the campus didn’t always look like me or represent all of my cultural familiarities or expectations, I’d still have the city of Chicago to help me feel more at home.

What is your PWI Survival Guide Tip?

  1. Confidence is everything! No matter where you go, loving yourself, and the skin that you’re in is important. (Do you boo!) 2. You are not a monolith, and don’t let anyone treat you as such. 3. Liking aspects of another culture does not mean that you are betraying your own. 4. Know your worth! (sort of like tip #1., but making sure that you are afforded what you’ve earned) 5. Have fun! These years go by so fast, so do all that you can and make friends and memories that can last a lifetime!


    1. Dennis Robinson

      Great story and representation, Keyana!

    2. Vontina Brown

      Keyana is a spectacular young lady she even expires me and I’m her aunt.whatever she puts her mind to she does just that!!!! Proud aunt Vontina Brown


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