Confer. Support. Collaborate.

by Hope Ferguson

Members of Minority Students in Action stand with President Merodie Hancock at the annual Student Academic Conference. Second from left is Layla Abdullah-Poulos, founder 
of the MSiA club.


Student Club Seeks to Provide Support and Strengthen Connections

Layla Abdullah-Poulos ’10, who returned to Empire State College to complete her Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, founded Minority Students in Action (MSiA), “because it has been my experience that many minority students conveyed that they felt little connection to Empire beyond taking courses," she said. "I wanted students to have a point of coalition and solidarity in order to assist each other in obtaining academic success and to produce a unified voice at the college.”

So far, the club, active for about a year and a half, has hosted number of activities, from in-person and online meetings to brunches and a coat drive during the last holiday season.

The Mission Statement of the Minority Students in Action Club:
A space for students to confer, collaborate and support each other, as well as generate a voice for more inclusion at the college.

“The MSiA board has accomplished a lot in a short amount of time,” Abdullah-Poulos said. “Four MSiA board members presented at the 2014 Student Academic Conference, and students continually approached the club’s information table to learn more about it. We organized events like the MSiA meet and greets, which were attended by Long Island location, Metropolitan location and Center for Distance Learning students. The events allowed members to become acquainted with each other and the club. We recently ended the MSiA coat drive. Coats were collected by Long Island location students, faculty, staff and the Long Island community to be distributed by New York Cares.”

Open to All Students

The club is open to all students of the college, no matter where they reside, or whether they identify as having minority status. It launched a user-friendly website that explains the impetus for the group, its officers, activities and other relevant information, as well as photographs of members, a news feed and means of signing up for the newsletter. Although called Minority Students in Action, the website stresses that the student club is open to any student at Empire State College. However, racial, religious and ethnic minorities, or those who feel in need of support due to disability or sexual orientation, may be among those most attracted to the club.

“There are a lot of different ways that you can be outside of having structural and institutional support in the U.S., and we’re concerned about all of those,” said Erin Young, of the college’s Nanuet location, who is the group’s faculty advisor. 

Started on Long Island, with the support of Associate Dean AmyRuth Tobol, the group’s objectives include providing a safe space for minority students, generating support for minority students in developing academic goals and facing challenges that jeopardize their achievements, representing the interests and concerns of minority students at Empire State College, encouraging pluralism and cultural relevancy on the part of the faculty, administration and the student body at large and increasing diversity awareness and friendship among all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin. They also are reaching out to the New York City group, the Black Male Initiative, to work together jointly in pursuing common goals, said Tobol.

“We expect 2015 to be an exciting year. We are planning a webinar series for our members, as well as a financial wellness symposium, end-of-the-term luncheon and the student-mentor relationship forum. We also will be launching a peer-advisor service for members,” said Abdullah-Poulos. 

In February, club members participated in a Web-based collegewide discussion on race and policing.

“When I returned to college at ESC in fall 2013, I benefited from a support system that recognized my life experiences and struggles as a minority woman,” said Treasurer Melinda Wills-Stallings on the website.

“The Women of Color Prior Learning Assessment workshops were key to successfully completing my first term at ESC. The inspiring network of mentors and fellow students offered a safe environment to discuss openly difficulties we faced as ethnic women from varied backgrounds.”

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Photography Provided