The Honors Program has developed a new club for all students of color to participate in leadership and mentoring activities.
The Dr. Michael W. Combs Honors Scholars is a new student organization at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for people of color to come together and share the struggles of coming from different backgrounds. The program is aimed at helping these students feel supported by offering more opportunities for leadership, mentoring and networking, according to Shannon Mangram, the Honors Program’s coordinator of community engagement, recruitment and retention.
“We’re trying to help students have access to resources, internships, scholarships, fellowships. We want to give students a professional networking system,” Mangram said.
The program was named after the late Michael Combs, who was a UNL professor of political science. Mangram said he was known for his excellence, service and compassion as a scholar.
“He was larger than life, and he called all these students young scholars, so we wanted to embody what he embodied,” Mangram said. “We wanted to focus on excellence, personal growth, service and accountability.”
The Combs Honors Scholars meet via Zoom on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Any person of color can join, regardless of whether they’re in the Honors Program or not, according to Mangram. The only requirement is to have a GPA of 3.4 or above.
The creation of this program started with Dulce Garcia, a sophomore advertising and public relations and journalism double major. She said she started this group because she felt lonely as a minority in the Honors Program due to the lack of a diverse community.
“I really didn’t feel like I belonged here. It’s almost like an imposter syndrome … I wasn’t an equivalent to everybody. I was a first generation student, low-income and a person of color,” Garcia said. “It seemed that everyone was aware of what they wanted to do in their life with the Honors Program, whereas I just kind of joined because they reached out to me.”
Because of this, Garcia wanted to quit the Honors Program. However, she changed her decision after meeting with the staff because she realized these people had opportunities to further her collegiate career.
“I understood that being in this program could take me far, but I recognized that there were other people who were in the same position as me … Being in the Honors program felt like tokenism, so I wanted to make it more inclusive and diverse,” Garcia said.
After receiving approval to create the RSO, Garcia began developing the program along with Daniela Chavez, an honors student, and Jordan Soliz, Honors Program faculty lead and professor of communication studies, over the summer.
“When you realize that you’re not the only one experiencing these feelings in a predominantly white campus, you can relate and find comfort in others,” Mangram said. “That’s why this program was created.”
Currently, the Combs Honors Scholars is giving students presentations about the requirements of getting into the Honors Program and how people of color are impacted by the lack of resources.
“This is a program that many people were looking forward to … We didn’t realize how many students were grateful for making this happen,” Garcia said.