Doctor Azure Stewart will lead the Umoja program as its first adviser in its first official full semester this spring.
The program aims to provide a community space for students that disciplines their academic interests while building a pathway to other institutions or wherever they envision themselves moving forward. It is primarily geared towards African-American and other black students.
The program’s start up room, along with an adviser to staff it, is something that members have been requesting for nearly a year since the program was first adopted. The room is now located in Campus Center Room 226. The program plans to offer a variety of networks from tutors, to administrative help, academic counselors, workshops, program advisors, and guest speakers.
Stewart says the idea of these students moving forward to build and explore their aspirations makes her happy. Her current office is located in ESL room 120 where she will be planning and conceptualizing for the upcoming semester with Umoja. She began her first semester at City College this fall teaching a communications class, but will discontinue her teaching position to take on the full time position as program advisor next semester.
“That was the main thing for me, having good mentors,” Stewart said. She added that she appreciated the guidance she received during her time as a student and as a product of the community college system herself Stewart said she understands the importance of culturally relevant education.
She spent the last ten years working in student affairs where she says there wasn’t a lot of exposure to cultural diversity. This bothered her and motivated her to be in a place where she could focus more on the community college students.
Stewart plans on focusing more on personal development as she prepares to take on this community leadership roll on campus. Stewart wants to enforce a positive learning environment centered not only around math, English, and science, but also those subjects that students feel suppressed from.
Luis Giraldo, director of Umoja program said “she’s amazing” and he’s excited to have her in the lead this semester.
“I’m here to make sure she has the tools she needs to be successful,” he said.
The Umoja program was adopted this semester but will now officially be cohort with the equity, diversity, and cultural competency department. There are plans on hosting an open house next spring which will celebrate students through networking and collaboration on campus.
Although the program is targeted at black and African-American students both advisors made it clear that anybody is welcome to join or attend Umoja program events, they are meant to build a stronger campus and support everybody. Stewart is an ethnographer by trade so understanding students is an important part of her position. She plans on building a “village space” or village mentality to start seeing more academic progress in the black community.