BOLD creates a place to escape for multicultural students


Courtesy of Steven Waddell

BOLD learning community members learn leadership skills, career fair etiquette, how to tackle anxiety and manage stress as well as other skills at meetings. 

Meghan Custis

Everyone wants to find a community in college. A home away from home where they can debrief, relax and be themselves. The BOLD learning community stands for Building Opportunities in Leadership and Diversity and serves as an escape for multicultural students on a predominantly white campus. 

Steven Waddell, the learning community coordinator, creates this space for students. His hope in teaching the BOLD class is to help multicultural students in a predominantly white institution find resources on campus. 

He opened his class Wednesday by asking each student to share a high and low moment for the week.

“Talk to me, tell me what’s happening,” Waddell said.

Students shared genuinely what was going on in their lives, from stresses of exams to joys of job interviews. Waddell interacted with each student, asking follow up questions to understand how the student was feeling. The classroom is truly a space where students and Waddell can be themselves.

“The reason why I love to teach the class, and the BOLD program in general, is I feel like in this program I can really show up as my whole self,” Waddell said. “So many times in life, especially as a person of color, we have to partition off segments of our identity.”

During a given class Waddell and peer mentors — students who were in the BOLD learning community themselves — work to help students learn tools to be successful on campus. Students learn a toolbox of skills including leadership tactics, career fair etiquette, how to handle anxiety and more.

The opportunity that students are given spans beyond the classroom. Out of class activities with students, mentors and ambassadors are a way the community builds relationships. The community went bowling earlier in the month, they have a night at the Workspace planned and they are attending the Iowa State vs. Louisiana Monroe football game as a group.

However, the group goes deeper than activities or lessons. Lillian Rocha, a junior at Iowa State, currently serves as a peer mentor. She and other mentors work tirelessly to create a space for students to feel safe and welcomed.

Rocha shared her experience as a multiracial student at Iowa State.

“Going to a PWI, it is very intimidating,” Rocha said. “For example, the first week here, someone came up to me and said, ‘Do you speak English?’”

Rocha was taken aback by the racial questions she received about her hair type, her skin color and her race. 

“As a person of color, that is very offensive,” Rocha said. “I’ve had people say very ignorant things to me.”

Political and racial hostility are issues Rocha notices on campus and as a mulitracial student.

“Even going around campus, I remember last year there was chalk that said, ‘If you’re Mexican go home’ and walking around as a Latina you’re thinking ‘this is what people think of me on campus?” Rocha said.

Nez Castro, freshman, nodded in agreement as Rocha spoke. 

“Back home I used to have at least a few people of color in my classes,” Castro said. “But here it’s like maybe one, and then that’s the only one for all my classes.”

Castro discovered BOLD at a booth during orientation, where Waddell was tabeling. He decided to join because it seemed like a way to make the campus smaller and more comfortable. BOLD has become a sigh of relief in his week.

“You can be yourself and no one is looking at you weird like, ‘I wonder what you are,’” Castro said.