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BC Affinity Groups Provide Opportunities to Make Connections

02/28/13
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By Kathleen Sullivan | Chronicle Staff

Published: Feb. 28, 2013

Whether an employee has been at Boston College for a few weeks or for several decades, Office for Institutional Diversity (OID) Executive Director Richard Jefferson wants them to know there are opportunities to connect with colleagues via the University’s Affinity Groups.

Affinity Groups are volunteer, employee-managed groups that bring together individuals with common interests for activities and discussions, advancing and sustaining a campus climate that supports diversity and inclusion. OID provides logistical and occasional financial assistance to Affinity Groups, which are open to any interested employee.
“We think these groups create a welcoming environment on campus,” said Jefferson. “It helps us be the type of place we want BC to be.”

While the Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association (BFSAA) has been around for more than 30 years, many of the other Affinity Groups, like APIE (Asian, Pacific Islander Employees), are more recently established. Other BC Affinity Groups are Latino/as at Boston College (L@BC), Lesbian and Gay Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association, Women’s Collaborative and Staff Advisory Senate.

Jefferson said the groups offer Boston College employees a way to celebrate their differences and a safe space to talk about issues of common interest.

Groups also have put on some “tremendous activities,” according to Jefferson. The L@BC developed and presented computer classes for service employees and another event that profiled the scholarship of faculty of color. APIE sponsored a presentation about the University performance management system by representatives from Human Resources and is planning a future meeting to learn more about the Jesuit tradition.

The groups also reach out to, and connect with, students from similar backgrounds. The BFSAA regularly hosts a reception for students to get to know its members and to relax and relieve stress before final exams.

The Affinity Groups offer a benefit to the OID as well, noted Jefferson. “They give us the opportunity to be tied in to interests and concerns of diverse groups. We learn how we, as an office, can help address concerns and celebrate differences.”

The Affinity Groups also feed the membership for the University’s Diversity Advisory Committee, which was revamped about a year ago. Each Affinity Group selects two members to be part of the Diversity Advisory Committee. The committee meets every other month. OID staff members serve as the meeting’s facilitator but seek agenda suggestions from the membership.

“The meetings have been very gratifying,” said Jefferson. “There is rich conversation and a lot of information sharing.”

OID has expanded into social media in an effort to communicate and connect with more people. Find OID on Facebook or Twitter.

For a complete list of Affinity Groups and contact information, go to the “Resources” page on the Office for Institutional Diversity website, at www.bc.edu/diversity/diversityresources.html.