Carmen Brodnax ’14 and Cera Rodriguez ’15 inspire others to explore cultural differences

Feb 12, 2014

As copresidents of the Black Student Association (BSA), North Central College Carmen Brodnax ’14 and Cera Rodriguez ’15 hope to engage the campus community in special activities during Black History Month and inspire students of all backgrounds to participate in BSA throughout the year.

Brodnax, who is majoring in global studies/Europe, and Rodriguez, majoring in sociology/criminal justice, are active members of the campus community. Brodnax is a student worker in North Central’s ITS department and a member of the French Club. Rodriguez participated in the Premier Scholars Program and served as a Premier Team Leader. During their free time, the pair plans weekly BSA meetings, which focus on themes such as race relations, higher education issues and current events. All students are invited to attend the meetings.  

Brodnax and Rodriguez are passionate about the discussions that take place during their meetings. “We talk about matters important to us, to minorities and the general public,” says Rodriguez. “We try to introduce new cultures, new ideas, new themes.”

Brodnax adds, “We may have a topic for one day that interests a certain group of people and another topic later on that interests another group. Everyone’s not the same, and we bring awareness to that.”

The copresidents and BSA board members also plan special events like those during Black History Month in February. “We come up with ideas of what we’d like to see happen. This year we’ve planned three free events for BSA week and everyone is invited,” says Brodnax. Included with planning was BSA secretary Mary Ward ’16.

Those events are:
•    Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m.: Speak Through the Arts. A poetry slam, dance showcase, spoken word presentations by students. Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall
•    Wednesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.: Panel discussion with alumni. North Central College alumni will talk about their work, careers, successes, answer questions, network with students. Harold and Eva White Activities Center, Fireside Lounge
•    Thursday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m.: Talent Show by Junior/Senior Scholars. High school students in the Junior/Senior Scholars program will perform. Theatre at Meiley-Swallow Hall   

As advisers for BSA, Donnavieve Smith, associate professor of marketing, and Renard Jackson, director of outreach and program development, guide students in planning these and other special activities. “This year’s BSA week features three power-packed days that focus on the arts, career development and service,” says Smith. “Students planned events that would highlight various aspects of their culture, while embracing the unique gifts of others.”  

Brodnax and Rodriguez are concerned that some students may mistake the group as being exclusive, which it’s not. “We welcome everyone! We’ve had people from every background at our meetings,” says Brodnax.

“For students who aren’t black,” says Rodriguez, “having them come and speak about their experiences allows us all to understand each other and realize that our cultures are more alike than we may think.”

For Brodnax, one highlight of life at North Central is experiencing the wide variety of cultural backgrounds the College has to offer. And the BSA, she says, is a vital tool for connecting different cultures. “I’m so glad we have this diversity, which allows us to experience these different backgrounds.”