Meet the First Deans Committed to Anti-Racism Efforts Undergraduate Intern
Essynce Lewis ‘22 saw a change that needed to happen in Aggieland and found a way to work towards a solution through the Deans CARE internship.
Tiarra Drisker ‘25
A freshman sat down and prepared herself for anthropology class. That day, her professor was discussing a topic she considered important and intriguing: the history of Sullivan Ross. The student took out her pen and paper, ready to learn more about a topic that she could relate to.
“Why are we wasting time talking about race since race is a social construct?” another student interrupted.
Students began turning around to see if the freshman would answer. That freshman was Essynce Lewis ‘22, an international studies major and the sole Black person in her anthropology class.
“I didn’t answer the question,” Lewis said. “Partly because I disliked the expectation to educate others on race and partly because I never had to explain the importance of it to someone before.”
This encounter made Lewis aware of the need for effective discussions between people of different backgrounds. In her junior year, she found an opportunity to be heard by people with the power to make a difference at Texas A&M University in the form of the brand-new Deans Committed to Anti-Racism Efforts (CARE) undergraduate internship. She took it.
“I was searching for a way that I could impact the overall climate of the university,” Lewis said. “When I found the Dean’s CARE internship on the Jobs For Aggies website, I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to address what my freshman self could not.”
Created by the Council of Deans at Texas A&M University, CARE supports the university’s progress towards a diverse and inclusive climate. Lewis’ position gave her the opportunity to work directly with university leaders to complete projects and assignments related to building a culture of inclusion, diversity, and accountability (DEI).
“The college sees this as a way to incorporate the next generation of DEI leaders, with faculty champions, in the researching and strategizing of ways we, as a community, can work toward greater levels of inclusion and a welcoming climate,” Leroy Dorsey, associate dean for inclusive excellence and strategic initiatives, said.
Lewis worked alongside university leaders to discover new ways that Texas A&M can attract and retain a more diverse student body while also investigating how other institutions foster an inclusive and welcoming climate for staff.
“We need diversity and inclusion to eradicate the hateful and prejudiced behaviors and attitudes against students, staff, and faculty of color,” Lewis explained. “There is such a disconnect between contrasting groups, which means that we often misunderstand each other or worse — won’t even tolerate each other. Diversity allows us to strive for a more peaceful and respectful coexistence.”
During her internship, Lewis had the opportunity to research DEI programs and initiatives at Texas A&M University and its peer institutions. She also collected demographic data on the peer institutions’ students to gauge how Texas A&M’s efforts compared. At the conclusion of her internship in spring of 2021, Lewis gave a presentation to the College of Liberal Arts Executive Council and a final report with her findings and recommendations for the college to adopt.
“The College of Liberal Arts has been such a driving force in promoting diversity and inclusion for the university,” Lewis remarked. “Out of the 20 universities that I researched, our college outperformed in providing a high quantity of initiatives and programs for our students. There are many educational opportunities, such as the Africana and Hispanic lecture series and faculty curriculum workshop.”
Lewis said what she learned from her time in the Department of International Studies prepared her for this prestigious internship.
“In many of my classes, we frequently discuss social issues concerning minority and marginalized populations that experience oppression around the world,” Lewis said. “Therefore, I recognized which issues are important and which areas may impact certain populations the most.”
While Texas A&M has implemented other initiatives that address DEI since Lewis’ internship, she acknowledges that there is still a distance to go to achieve equity and equality in Aggieland.
“Most students are welcoming and will try to understand your identity,” Lewis said. “Where a lot of students fall short is in understanding your experiences. They acknowledge that you are a part of a group, but they can discredit or ignore the struggles you have experienced.”