Drew’s heralded Launch Program has been rolled out over the past year. The most recent plank of the program is the creation of the Launch Communities — 18 in total, 10 under the banner of Career Communities, and eight under that of Identity/Affinity.
As stated on the Launch website, “Launch ensures that every Drew student graduates connected, cultivated and capable for today’s workplace. Your world is diverse, so your community connections are diverse.” These Communities are just one of the ways that this new program strives to reach this goal.
There are 10 Career Communities based on career and professional development: Arts, Communications and Languages; Business, Finance, and Entrepreneurship; Exploratory; Medicine and Health Professions; Science, Technology, Engineering and Sustainability; Social Impact, Education, Law and Government; K-12 Education; Pre-Law; Theology and Ministry and International Opportunities. The website explains, “These are not communities of membership—they are communities of interest.”
Programs like the career communities are being implemented in institutions across the country, however, Drew is one of three institutions that are focusing attention on the identity/affinity communities, explained Dr. Sari Pascoe, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
There are eight Identity/Affinity Communities based on culture and identity development: Commuter/Transfer/Nontraditional; Faith, Religion and Spirituality; First Generation; Gender and Sexuality; Limited Resources; Ethnic/Racial Heritage; Visible/Invisible Disabilities; and International Student. These eight communities were chosen based on student input.
The Identity/Affinity Communities are comprised of two advisory groups: one group comprised of students and one group comprised of staff, faculty, alumni, employers and community members. This was structured as such to put the focus on students’ voices and providing them a place to build confidence in their own environment. The student group has a co-chair position, and one of the co-chairs attends the meeting with the other advisory board.
Pascoe said, “Instead of imposing more work or different ways of doing the work, we’re actually highlighting the good work that is happening.” In this vein, in the upcoming year, an expectation of funding for student clubs and organizations will be affiliation with the Launch Communities, as student organizations are at the forefront of student programming. “We want to hear their voices incorporated early on in creating cultures through the communities,” said Pascoe.
There will also be an expo on Oct. 11 to showcase the Launch Communities, which are open for all students to join, not just first-years. “Come and try it,” Pascoe urged. “Come and give us your best ideas and innovation and lend your voice to make sure that at Drew University, we can become respectful of everyone based on their identity, based on their values, and based on who they are.”