Name – Darius Beckham
School – University of Dayton
Year – 2019 Graduate
Major – Political Science
Minor – Sociology
Orgs – Black Action Thru Unity Executive Board, Dayton Civic Scholars, College Democrats, P.E.E.R.S. Mentor program, Resident Assistant
Darius Beckham is an avid public speaker, writer, and poet studying political science and sociology at the University of Dayton. He is a Dayton native and the youngest of three brothers. Darius seeks to give back to the city of Dayton through through public service and by working alongside community leaders. For this reason, he joined the Dayton Civic Scholars as a first year student, a program that strives to shape students into civic leaders through sustained civic engagement and professional development opportunities. After earning his bachelor’s degree he plans to attend law school and pursue a career in civil rights law to fight for social justice within American society.
How would you describe the blk community on your campus?
The black community at the University of Dayton is a small, relatively familiar group of welcoming individuals. Upon my arrival on campus, I quickly became acquainted with other students of color through spaces such as the Office of Multicultural Affairs, a friendly community of culturally diverse students within the larger University of Dayton community. However, beyond the walls of OMA, one is unlikely to see numerous black faces. As a result, I have often found myself trying to hide a feeling of surprise and camaraderie when I encounter a black student I do not recognize.
What do they need? What do they want?
Black students at the University of Dayton need more effective student-led events and programs. Student organizations on college campuses generally struggle, but black student organizations on white campuses suffer even greater difficulties. Clearly, black orgs at PWI’s have much less of a student populous to draw from. Consequently, students who hold executive board positions in black orgs commonly feel pressured to accept such positions, seeing that if they do not, the role will be left unfilled. This has typically led to complacent and disorganized leadership. For that reason, I believe black students, particularly, black students leaders, should have the opportunity to attend annual leadership conferences, retreats, and/or trainings to improve their organization.
How has your school responded to these needs and wants?
The University of Dayton programs two leadership conferences, one in the fall and another in the spring in which all students all are welcome to attend. The office of Multicultural affairs also oversees Kindred Presidents a student council of multicultural student leaders, created to increase communication and collaboration between student organizations.
What have you done to improve the student life of black students on your campus?
I have been very intentional about increasing the activities and visibility of black organizations on the University of Dayton’s campus. During the course of this academic year I served as Treasurer of BATU (Black Action Thru Unity), the primary organization for students of color at UD. During my time as Treasurer, I helped to grow and maintain BATU’s student org account and also assisted in coordinating various annual events. As the current semester comes to an end, I plan to run for BATU President. I believe that under my leadership BATU will become a greater driving force of inclusion and black initiatives, as well as a focal point for all black organizations on campus. BATU has the potential to help positively shape the experience of black students at the University of Dayton and that is something I do not take for granted. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of being both a Resident Assistant and a mentor in the P.E.E.R.S. (Program to Engage and Exchange Resources for Students) mentor program. Serving in these roles have also allowed me the opportunity to have a positive impact on black, white, and international students alike.
Why did you choose to attend a PWI over a HBCU?
I like to think that the University of Dayton chose me. Naturally, I had hopes of attending Howard University or Morehouse College but coming to UD made the most sense (financially speaking).
Additionally, I felt welcomed and was able to easily imagine spending the next four years of my life at this University. While I was able to adjust fairly well, coming to UD was a stark change from my 50% black high school. However, as a Dayton native, attending the University of Dayton has given me the luxury of not having to find a new barber or church. And of course, I still eat at home on Sundays.
What is your PWI Survival Guide Tip?
The greatest advice I can give to any black student at any predominately white institution is to be true to yourself and to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Of course, there will be times when you may have to step outside of your comfort zone but ultimately you cannot sideline who you are to become the person others want you to be. Do not be afraid to speak out about the issues that concern you and understand that no matter what PWI you may attend, you belong.