This Month:

July 2019: Karsyn Terry

Jun 30, 2019 | Spotlights | 0 comments

SPOTLIGHT

 

  • Name: Karsyn Terry
  • School: University of California, Berkeley
  • Year: Rising Junior (Class of 2021)
  • Major: Molecular & Cell Biology
  • Minor: African American Studies
Orgs: For the 2018-19 school year, I served as Community Development Coordinator for the Black Recruitment and Retention Center (BRRC), Secretary for the Black Students in Health Association (BSHA), and a Teaching Assistant for the African American Theme Program Seminar. I also work as a Student Assistant for the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP) and a staff member for the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center (FLHBRC) on campus. For the 2019-20 school year, I will be serving as the Events Coordinator for BSHA, and will continue to work as a Student Assistant for PPFP and be on staff as a Program Logistics Coordinator for the FLHBRC.  
Personal bio: Originally from the South side, I was born and raised in Chicago. My college process was long and difficult, but my ultimate decision to go to Cal was huge. It meant that I would be attending the #1 public university in the world! But, it also meant that I was moving to a new and unfamiliar place thousands of miles away, leaving behind everything I considered to be home. The majority of students at Cal are from California, and as a result, many people come to Cal knowing at least a few people. I started college knowing no one. Luckily, I was accepted into the African American Theme Program (Afro Floor) which allowed me to live amongst other Black students during my freshman year. Living on the Afro Floor was amazing because it brought the Black community (and its resources) directly to me! I met Black staff/faculty, a variety of other Black students (some of which have become some of my best friends), and I was exposed to Black organizations that I would eventually become involved in. My involvement within BRRC, AASD, and BSHA has shown me that I have a deep passion for mentorship, education, and community engagement. Within AASD, I spearheaded the creation of a monthly Open Mic Night– a safe space for students of color to express themselves and bond with community over (free) food. During my leadership with BRRC, I partnered with another organization on campus called Bears for Financial Success (BFFs) to host Financial Literacy workshops for the Black community, which included things like “Understanding Credit Cards” and “How to Find Affordable Housing”. Finally, one of the things I’m most proud of is the successful launch of a mentorship program I started for pre-health students last year during my time as Secretary of BSHA. Overall, although small, it’s clear that the Black community at my PWI is powerful and with that, I’d say my PWI Survival Guide Tip is: Find your tribe! Navigating college becomes so much easier when you have a strong support system!

 

How would you describe the blk community on your campus? –

Although the Black community on my campus is very small in numbers (<2%), it is very diverse. Part of the reason I really like my school is because of the wide variety of Black people that I’ve been able to meet and become friends with. Due to the small size, it seems as if every person has their own respective role within the community. You know the pre-med people, you know who to approach for activist/political work, you know which people have connections to administration, and the list goes on. 

What do they need? What do they want? – 

My community is strained and overworked. The work that’s necessary to build and develop a safe culture for Black students on campus is just too much to handle for ~1000 students. Recently, because of a list of demands sent to the previous Chancellor in 2015 by CalBSU, we were finally given a space dedicated solely to Black students. This fall, the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center will be celebrating its 3rd year anniversary. Fighting for and receiving a space has only showed us what more we need (and want) from our university. The biggest hurdle (what I think all of us would agree that we need the most) is definitely money. We need funding!!! We need funding for a bigger and better Black Resource Center, we need money for scholarships, we need the administration to do targeted hiring in order to increase the number of Black faculty on campus (across all departments), and the list goes on. Overall, we just want the administration to sincerely empathize with our experiences, listen to us, validate our feelings about the racial climate on campus, and most importantly, deliver the tangible resources that we need. 

 

How has your school responded to these needs and wants? –

Like I mentioned earlier, back in 2015, CalBSU sent a list of 10 demands to protest the harsh racial climate on campus, as well as the lack of response to Michael Brown’s murder. After a series “no’s” from the Chancellor at the time, followed by increasingly more intense demonstrations by Black students to protest their denials of the demands, 5/10 demands on the list were accepted. With that being said, it’s clear that the administration isn’t very open to supporting our wants/needs. Everything that we have as Black students came with a fight. As I entered Cal as a freshman, I quickly learned this fact. By being apart of the African American Theme Program (Afro Floor), I learned a lot of history about Black students at Cal, including the history of the Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, the history of the African American Studies Department, and much more. Eventually, I had my own personal experiences with the fight when I became the Community Development Coordinator for the Black Recruitment and Retention Center (BRRC). BRRC is a part of a wider multicultural coalition called bridges. As a coalition, we met with the Chancellor and her administration twice a semester to discuss how they could help us within our respective organizations. Throughout these meetings, all of our asks were met with resistance or deflection, and it became frustrating throughout the school year to successfully hold certain programs/events. Because of this reality, I have tried to not get consumed by my frustrations, and focus on the ways I can individually help my community. 

What have you done to improve the student life of black students on your campus? – 

Within the African American Student Development Office (AASD), I spearheaded the creation of a monthly Open Mic Night– a safe space for students of color to express themselves and bond with community over (free) food. During my leadership with BRRC, I partnered with another organization on campus called Bears for Financial Success (BFFs) to host Financial Literacy workshops for the Black community, which included things like “Understanding Credit Cards” and “How to Find Affordable Housing”. Finally, one of the things I’m most proud of is the successful launch of a mentorship program I started for pre-health students last year during my time as Secretary of the Black Students in Health Association (BSHA). 

 

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

I chose to go to a PWI instead of an HBCU because when it boiled down to it, my PWI would be more cost-efficient. In addition to the financial advantages, UC Berkeley is the #1 public university in the world, and is world-renowned for STEM disciplines. I am a pre-med student, so attending a school that was well known for the sciences was a huge priority for me. Finally, UC Berkeley is a research institution, and as a pre-med student, it is almost expected to have at least some research experience before entering medical school. Going to UC Berkeley would mean that research opportunities would be more readily available than at another school. 

What is your PWI Survival Guide Tip?

Find your tribe! Navigating college becomes so much easier when you have a strong support system!

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