GPS Program lets students meet peers with similar backgrounds

Diversity is an important piece of the collegiate experience, but a new initiative from the Office of Multicultural Affairs called Group Peer Support is now seeking to help students find commonality in relationships as well.

The initiative includes monthly “1MU” discussions for first-generation students, as well as groups called Multicultural MEN (Male Empowerment Network) for males from underrepresented backgrounds and DIVA (Diverse Individuals Valuing Another) for women from underrepresented backgrounds.

John Janulis, interim coordinator for Multicultural Affairs, said the series is intended to help students build relationships with other students and also as a place where students can talk about the issues they may be facing, including academics or even getting settled on campus. He said the aim is for the dialogues to be student-led and student-centered.

“I’m a 30-year-old white male who works full time here,” Janulis said. “I don’t experience the university the same way as students. We want students to talk about issues they way they want to talk about them.”

Janulis said GPS can hopefully accomplish just that.

“Our role in Multicultural Affairs is to create an opportunity for students to dictate what gets talked about, how it gets talked about and for students to become agents in themselves in navigating the university and creating change,” he said.

Carla Cadet, assistant dean of Multicultural Affairs, said the different groups have common threads, including students building leadership skills and community with each other and Marquette. She said GPS also hopes to help more students stay at Marquette.

“As we look to support different communities — racial, first-generation, LGBT students — one way we thought we could help shape and build communities within these groups is to allow students to feel connected with the campus to stay at Marquette for all four to five years of their college experience,” Cadet said.

But the groups are not focused on the idea that something is wrong with the university, Janulis said.

“We view this as a bunch of people passionate around the issues, sharing their experiences on campus and how to help each other be successful at Marquette,” he said.

Jennifer Solorio, a senior in the College of Communication, attended the first-generation college student discussion and enjoyed it.

“I’m a second semester senior and haven’t seen much outreach to first-generation students,” Solorio said. “The series is very much needed — first-generation goes beyond race and economic background. I would definitely love to continue working on it.”

Cadet said GPS will provide insight into other ways to reach out to students, but it will take time to raise awareness of the new series.

“It’s really about students finding what other students are doing, what faculty or department can help, how different campus resources can help provide answers and letting students learn from other students about different access points,” Cadet said. “It’s an opportunity for students in population to get together and offer perspectives.”