As the most diverse polytechnic university in the nation, Cal Poly Pomona counts inclusivity among its core values. Offering equal access to opportunities for success, growth and learning is something in which the university takes great pride.
A large part of the commitment to inclusivity lies in supportive student centers, where community can be found in identity. During Black History Month, Derick Prince, the coordinator for the African American Student Center, shared some thoughts about his center how we can celebrate the Black community not just during February, but year-round.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your role.
Derick: My name is Derick Prince and I serve as the African American Student Retention Coordinator here at Cal Poly Pomona.
Q: How did you get this position?
Derick: I started off as an academic advisor at Cal Poly Pomona in the College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences. I oversaw a caseload of around 800 students, primarily majors in psychology, sociology and political science. I’ve been involved with the African American Student Center so I applied and I got this position.
Q: What part of your job is the most impactful, and why?
Derick: Interacting with Black students. So, if they come and they need help, being able to help them, meet them where they’re at, and mainly seeing students when they start off as freshmen, all the way up to senior and then senior to graduate. That impact is something that I look forward to and that I enjoy most about this position.
Q: What makes the African American Student Center unique, and what is something you wish students knew about the center?
Derick: We’re unique because of the students that we cater to. We cater to primarily Black students, but all of our programs and services are open to all students – that’s kind of a misconception here on campus. Something that I wish students knew is where we’re at, where we’re located — we’re located in Building 95, L110.
Q: What do you see for the future of the African American Student Center and what are your hopes for the center?
Derick: For the center to grow. That way, we can grow from our space, growing our numbers of Black students. Currently we’re around 3 to 4 percent [of all students at Cal Poly Pomona], so I’d like to see that grow to maybe 10 to 11 percent. And of course, it’s going to take different strategies and approaches. I know we have the Black Thriving Initiative, so I’m really excited about that to help with the growth of the Student Center.
Q: Tell us about your experience with the Black Thriving Initiative.
Derick: I’m currently on the committee with [Dean of Students] Jonathan Grady and Teshia Roby [Learning, Research and Technologies Associate Vice President], who are the chairs of the committee, and we meet to discuss the program. We’re currently in phase one, which is the healing phase, which includes and planning workshops and listening groups. Coming in March, students will be able to have one-on-one sessions with the with a Black counselor, so that’s something I’m excited about coming through the Black Thriving initiative.
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you, and what do you hope for this month and beyond?
Derick: To me, Black History Month means honoring the achievements of Black people, honoring the past, the future and the present. We definitely want to celebrate Black history not just in Black History Month but throughout the whole entire year. I want to stress the focus of not only talking about slavery but also the achievements and the joys that we have within Black history and within the Black community.
Q: We know that allyship is important, comes in many forms and should be year-round. In your opinion, what is the best way to be an ally during this month and beyond?
Derick: I have four ideas:
- Come to events by the African American Student Center and be involved with the Black Thriving initiative. The initiative is having listening sessions to get feedback from the community.
- There’s never a wrong answer, so we want you to come and interact with us no matter what your circumstances are.
- Be comfortable talking about race. We all have our different levels with that discussion.
- Just because an event is hosted by African American students and you may not identify as African American, you are still welcome to come to those events.
For more opportunities to connect with the African American Student Center, check out their upcoming events.