Diversity during the Covid Pandemic: SMU Multicultural Histories in 2020-2021

This blog post was written by Jonathan Angulo. He is currently a PhD Candidate at SMU’s History Department and an Oral History Project Manager at Voices of SMU. His research focuses on undocumented economies in the Imperial-Mexicali Valley California Borderlands during the mid-twentieth century. 
The Voices of SMU team seeing each other in person after carrying the project forward via Zoom. 
SMU students, faculty, and staff experienced the Covid pandemic in numerous ways throughout the 2020 and 2021 semesters; this was also true for the Voices of SMU team. Everyone throughout the campus adjusted to multitudes of emergency protocols as Covid spread throughout the nation and university. Individuals learned and worked by attending Zoom classes, virtual weekly meetings, hybrid courses, and physically distanced events. People affiliated with SMU attempted to protect themselves and their loved ones to the best of their abilities as we experienced the highs and lows of a once-in-a-lifetime event. The Voices of SMU team learned that we could conduct oral history interviews digitally. Black, Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI), and Latinx alumni participated in interviews via Zoom to tell their histories. As we get ready for the fall semester, the team is animated to grow our work while being safe during the remainder of the pandemic.
When the university transitioned to a virtual semester after Spring Break 2020, leaders at Voices of SMU thought of ways to keep a digital presence. Project managers and graduate assistants worked via Microsoft Teams and email to construct a blog page through WordPress. Members created content via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to inform others about essential interviews we conducted. Our lead project manager continued to contact alumni and arranged interviews with them throughout the summer. As a result, the team succeeded in creating new and sharing important interviews on social media. Furthermore, undergraduate research assistants learned about the experiences of alumni who graduated between the 1970s and 2010s.
After the Fall 2021 semester, our team highlighted alumni during Black History Month and Women’s History Month on social media. For Black History Month, we chose to focus on Ms. Rickie Wright (Class of 1977), Ms. Anga Sanders (Class of 1970), and Reverend Doctor Zan Homes (Class of 1959 and 1968). These alumni talked about segregation in Dallas, Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s history at SMU, and the Black League of African American Students’ (BLAACS) sit-in at President Willis M. Tate’s office. The scholars discussed how they fought segregation in the city and formed institutions at SMU that advocated for better funding, retention, and recruitment of Black students.
For Women’s History Month, we shared an oral history and posted a blog about the experiences of alumni. The team discussed the importance of Dr. Sheron Patterson’s (Class of 1983, 1989, 1996) trailblazing career. Dr. Patterson became one of the first Black women to be ordained in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Furthermore, she published numerous books and became recognized for her work in United Methodism. Our graduate project manager, Camille Davis, shared, “Merci Monsieur! (Thank You, Sir!) What I learned from SMU Alum, Marc Patrick” on the blog. Ms. Davis describes how Mr. Patrick’s views on internal strength and good character helped him succeed as a Black student at a predominantly white institution. Mr. Patrick’s insights left an imprint on her as she aspires to build on her internal strength and good character to develop as an academic and individual.
The Voices of SMU team successfully organized our first webinar and participated in SMU Giving Day in April despite the pandemic. Beginning in Spring 2021, our leadership team planned an online webinar sponsored by the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement, Clements Department of History, Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute, and Dedman College Diversity and Inclusion. Using our social media pages and the sponsoring institutions, we had a successful webinar where alumni, participants, and attendees heard our undergraduate and graduate researchers discuss the experiences of Black, Asian/AAPI, and Latinx alumni. The team was pleased to hear that the attendees enjoyed hearing about the histories and alumni’s contributions to SMU’s history. Finally, we closed out the month with a strong finish for SMU’s Giving Day. Forty-six supporters helped us fundraise nearly $10,000 for events, transcription costs, and research funding. THANK YOU!
While we are not at the end of the Covid pandemic, Voices of SMU is excited for a safe 2021-2022 school year where we can interact in person and present our projects to the public. To relieve ourselves from Zoom fatigue, the team scheduled an in-person meeting where our undergraduate and graduate researchers took headshots for their professional advancement during the summer. We reminisced about our virtual experiences and talked about how enthusiastic we are for the school year. Researchers succeeded in creating a Latinx History at SMU video for Hispanic Heritage Month; it will be aired between August and September 2021. Moreover, this video will acknowledge the importance of Latinos and Latinas at SMU, just as our Black History at SMU video does. The Voices team assisted with an application for a Texas historical marker commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s speech in SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium. We will be at the unveiling event and hope to see everyone there when it’s completed! We are thrilled to share our work with the SMU community as safe as possible throughout the upcoming school year.

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