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The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success program, which hosted a summit titled Surviving and Thriving: Narratives from graduate students of color in early April, hosted several pop-up exhibits in departments and units at UNC-Chapel Hill during the fall 2022 semester. The inaugural Surviving and Thriving Summit explored anonymous stories from graduate students of color through interactive storyboards and a performance piece, and culminated in a facilitated discussion.

This event is made possible through the ETS/Council of Graduate Schools Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education. This effort, titled “Addressing Systemic Racism Through Structured Learning Communities,” looks to improve departmental racial climates as well as promote holistic student success for graduate students of color, ultimately creating a pathway for students to not only survive graduate school but thrive.

Testimonials from pop-up exhibit hosts

Christian T. Lundblad
Senior associate dean for faculty and research

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Kenan-Flagler is a wonderful, but complicated place. For all the potential that we help so many of our students realize, testimonies like the ones on display in our foyer nevertheless offer a moment for each of us to contemplate the impediments that many of our students face.  University studies are unambiguously hard for most, but these stories show us that the road can be significantly harder for some in ways that are unfair. Further, the resilience that some students exhibit in the face of these impediments is inspiring.
By pure coincidence, I happened to enter our building’s front door exactly when the display was being set up. Rather than watching students contemplate the display, I had the unique opportunity to witness the display’s architects map out their presentation. I watched from a distance, appreciating the seriousness with which they approached their task. Their determination intrigued me, and I simply had to come back and take a closer look.

Anne Bryan, Ed.D. 
Director, full-time MBA program
UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

I walked through to take some photos and it was humbling to see other students stopping and reflecting while I was there. It was great to see students taking a close look at the stories of graduate students of color and talking to each other about both their own graduate school experience as well as what graduate school must have been like for underrepresented students. I heard some good conversations and some “wow, I had no idea” moments, which is great for any graduate’s personal growth.

There’s still work to be done, but we strive to build our community at KFBS and more generally around campus… Having done graduate school myself, I know it can be isolating. I also know many underrepresented students who struggled with imposter syndrome, questioned their own worth, and felt alone throughout their graduate school years. It is important in making strides towards community that we lift up the powerful voices of students for whom graduate school has additional, sometimes heavy layers, both to create awareness and so that we might become supportive allies, for them and for all graduate students.

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