Unity in Community
The Department of Multicultural Services gives students from underserved cultures social support, academic opportunities and a place to call home.
- By Bec Morris '23
- Illustration by Sol Cotti
- Oct. 19, 20224 min read
College can be overwhelming for any young person on their own for the first time, but finding support within Texas A&M University is essential for all Aggies to get the most out of their college careers. Through the Department of Multicultural Services (DMS), students from various racial and ethnic cultural backgrounds can discover meaningful connections and engagement opportunities during this transition, right in the heart of campus life: the Memorial Student Center (MSC).
Beyond its MSC location, DMS hosts campus transition events, cultural heritage month celebrations, and educational and developmental programming across various topics. Together with student cultural organizations, DMS provides essential engagement experiences for underrepresented students and helps prepare Aggies for an increasingly diverse world.
Texas A&M’s first minority support initiative was founded as the Multicultural Services Center in 1987 after a push by the Division of Student Services Standing Committee on Minority Student Conditions to create an office dedicated to minority students and their well-being. The center aimed to support leadership development opportunities and academic success programs for those in ethnic minority populations.
That first year, the center hosted the inaugural Minority Freshman Orientation, formally called Excellence uniting Culture, Education and Leadership (ExCEL). It became the department’s signature program and still serves new students as they transition to life at Texas A&M.
By the end of 1989, the center achieved departmental status and was subsequently re-christened the Department of Multicultural Services (DMS). In the years since, DMS programs and services have expanded to include year-long first-year mentoring programs, developmental education and community dialogues impacting thousands of students across the university. “DMS provides opportunities for students to purposefully engage in ways that are personally meaningful to who they are and their lived experiences, which fosters their senses of connection, validation, visibility and social belonging at the university,” said DMS director Dr. Tonya Driver ’95.
A Place and a Voice
DMS’ recent renovation and expansion provided students with newly renovated study spaces, interactive multimedia meeting rooms and common areas to foster an engaged, supportive community. A mural by artist Yehimi Cambrón inspires a sense of unity in Aggies and visitors descending the nearby stairwell. For Hannah Taylor ’25, president of the Black Student Alliance Council (BSAC), DMS gives students a place to find support and connect. “Everyone was super friendly when I walked in the first time, and it felt like a safe space to study and make friends,” Taylor recalled. “DMS gives us a central location where we know we can find resources and people who care.”
Along with BSAC, the Asian Presidents’ Council and the Hispanic Presidents’ Council offer monthly programming revolving around educational topics such as mental wellness, stress management and finances. These councils also arrange celebrations for each cultural heritage month. Black History Month events are held during February, while Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 annually. Although Asian Heritage Month is nationally recognized in May, Texas A&M currently recognizes it in April to honor the historical contributions of Asian American individuals and their continuing impact on the university and the world during the semester.
“Black History Month is important for me to remember and celebrate those who have come before me and made great strides for the Black and African American communities,” Taylor said. “I always learn something new, even during the other heritage months, which helps me think about the world differently.”
Through first-year programming like ExCEL, Latino Logradores and the Institute for the Development and Education of Asian American Leaders, freshmen learn to navigate the college environment and connect with the campus community. These organizations assist new students transitioning to life in Aggieland by helping them navigate the college environment, establish relationships and hone their personal success skills. Through tailored engagement strategies, these programs foster meaningful connections with peers and belonging within the Texas A&M campus community.
Organizations and program advisors within DMS, like BSAC and ExCEL advisor Briana Nelson ’23, are key contributors to student success, assisting with programming and mentoring students throughout their time at Texas A&M, going above and beyond their job descriptions to offer extra support that can change lives. “Briana always checks in on me to ask about my grades and my mental health,” Taylor attested with a smile. “She’s there to guide us and help us with anything we need. It makes me feel like I’m at my home away from home.”
Build Belonging: Want to support our diverse Aggie student body? Contact Reagan Chessher ’96 to learn how you can help students and staff in the Department of Multicultural Services today.