‘It’s All About Relationships’

October 18, 2019

“At heart, I’m an educator,” said Jazmine Brooks ’16. “I appreciate being in a community where I can walk alongside other individuals.”

Brooks returns to Mary Baldwin this year to serve as the Office of Inclusive Excellence (OIE) fellow, a one-year position that is responsible for coordinating all of OIE and minority club programming. Minority students comprise 46 percent of MBU’s undergraduate, residential enrollment.  

This year, Brooks is part of the effort to continue expanding the office’s openness to diverse populations on campus and making it known as a hub for multicultural communication, activities, and discussions. For example, Brooks helped plan the Unity in the Community Day in mid-September to help establish OIE as a resource for everyone on campus. The event came together under the theme “The Power of WE” and featured flag-making, poetry, an open mic about MBU’s inclusivity statement, music, and dancing. 

Brooks will continue to coordinate a full slate of events throughout 2019–20, and she is also working to be an ambassador for minority students on campus and enabling opportunities for everyone to engage with MBU’s diverse community.

“Our events promote conversations about conflict resolution and how to build allyship,” she said. “It’s important to have more programs where we bridge the gap between different backgrounds, so that minority students know they have allies and support on campus.” 

A double major in philosophy/religion and criminal justice, Brooks was very involved as a campus leader during her time as a student, participating in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the Student Government Association, OIE and minority programming, and the Residence Hall Association. 

“One particular aspect of Mary Baldwin that prepared me for real life was how the philosophy faculty would ask tough questions and challenge you on your thoughts,” Brooks said. “Folk like Dr. Scott and Dr. Owen had me thinking about my place and my calling in the world.”

That post-Commencement journey took Brooks to Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., where she continued studying philosophy and religion, and she also served in the Army Reserves.

“One particular aspect of Mary Baldwin that prepared me for real life was how the philosophy faculty would ask tough questions and challenge you on your thoughts.”

In addition to her academic studies, Brooks looks back on her time in the PERSIST program — a cohort for African American students that assists with the transition to college, gives opportunities for service-learning and leadership, and promotes tools for lifetime success after college — as a defining experience during her college career. 

“It’s really all about relationships at Mary Baldwin. I was in the first cohort of PERSIST, and right off the bat, the class was close,” she said. “It means something to be part of a community where you have struggled and succeeded together.”

During her time as a student, Brooks appreciated how OIE streamlined her experience with the broader Mary Baldwin community, something she is now continuing to evolve and move forward in her position as fellow.

“It was helpful to me to have a safe space to experience my cultural independence and still know that I was part of a broader culture, that it was OK to participate in and value both,” she said.

Serving as a SistaFriend alumna mentor to current students since she graduated in 2016, Brooks maintained ties to Mary Baldwin and OIE while she lived in D.C., but she’s excited to build more in-person relationships with students here on campus.  

“Now I can work hands-on with my mentees and a broader array of students who may not get that alumni network support otherwise,” she said. “I want to be a strong part of our alumni network that is all about giving back, those people who say ‘my experience at Mary Baldwin was lovely and I want to make sure the students have a lovely one, too.’”