The Bellarmine Black Caucus supports Black faculty, staff and students

February 28, 2023

News 08.18.22. Knights of Color 02

Dr. Leslie Maxie, Bellarmine’s Dean of Students, has been at the university for more than two decades.

In that time, the number of Black faculty and staff have grown, so much so, that a few years ago, an affinity group called the Bellarmine Black Caucus formed to support them. 

“The goal of the caucus is really to foster a campus climate and culture of unity, equity and respect,” said Maxie, who currently serves as the group’s co-chair. 

The group is now about 30 members strong. They meet as often as possible, planning ways to support the university's Black student population and the administration’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Informally, they create a community of care by celebrating accomplishments, fostering connections and helping each other overcome challenges.   

“We support and encourage each other, and I think that’s what the BBC does best,” Maxie said. 

Maxie said the BBC has become the most consistent and sustained community-building effort for Bellarmine’s Black employees that she can recall in her tenure. 

Leslie MaxieThe BBC was one of many initiatives started by Dr. Donald “DJ” Mitchell Jr., the college’s first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Dr. Patricia Carver, Assistant Professor of Business Administration and Dr. Dawn Hall-Bibb, Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, served as its first chairs. 

“I think it’s been effective,” said Hall-Bibb. “Knowing that you have a community to support you makes a difference in your everyday work life.” 

The group has helped Human Resources in their efforts to recruit more diverse employees. 

A student group invited them to a panel to talk about the experiences of black faculty and staff on a predominately white campus. 

“We talked with them about how we negotiate space and offered some wisdom about how they can negotiate space at Bellarmine, in corporate America or anywhere, just some tips on things maybe we would have liked to have known,” Maxie said. “We had a really good conversation about black excellence and what that means for us. It was exciting that they invited us and we got to be a part of that. I think it was a good partnership.”

They’ve also talked to other groups through the Office of Identity and Inclusion and participated in networking dinners for the Knights of Color, a yearlong mentorship program for first-year students of color to help foster community, resilience and success.

“That representation is important, it’s important for them to know we’re available, we can be a resource they can turn to,” Maxie said. 

Maxie said the group was always meant to support the university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Dr. Tomarra Adams began that role last year and has high praise for how members of the caucus helped her get grounded in her new position.  

“The members of the Black Caucus have been instrumental in my transition to Bellarmine by providing support, perspective on organizational history and culture, and actively engaging in work to create a sense of belonging and mentorship for faculty, staff and students. Their shared lived experiences inform our DEI priorities and strategies. The BBC brings value for a more diverse and inclusive Bellarmine community,” Adams said. 

In the future, the group hopes to be more visible on campus as well as work to inform the university’s new strategic vision, Maxie said. 

“I think Black History Month is a good month for us to reflect on our initiatives and where we want to go from here,” Maxie said. “We’ll be considering our new strategic initiative and where we sit within that. What is our role and responsibility to help move Bellarmine forward to be more equitable and inclusive for faculty, staff and students?”

Black History Month is important for her personally, as well.

“Not that I don't have the opportunity 365 days of year to reflect on my blackness and my place in the world, but Black History Month is a time of reflection, an opportunity to look back, to be present and to dream about the future, not only what I want for myself, but the future of our students, for the future of my daughter. I'm looking back to learn. I think our ancestors paved the way. My grandparents paved the way. My parents paved the way. What is my responsibility to the work that they have done? I'm thinking about what my responsibility is to help move Bellarmine forward and to move my culture forward and what steps I need to take for the next generation to be better. So, it’s a time of reflection on our legacy, and for me, that legacy includes my past, my present and my future.”


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