MOSAIC’s Meet Your Neighbor Helps Students Feel At Home


MOSAIC hosted its third annual Meet Your Neighbor.Students of color were welcomed to their new home during Meet Your Neighbor, a “speed friending”-style Zoom mixer hosted by MOSAIC this week.

MOSAIC is a multicultural organization that helps the campus community “see, celebrate and explore cultural diversity” through experiences such as chapel services, museum visits, book clubs, panels and celebrations, said Dannemart Pierre, director of First Year and Transfer Experience and director for multicultural student programs.

New students introduced themselves and met fellow students, alumni, faculty and staff. This marked MOSAIC’s third annual Meet Your Neighbor and the first time that alumni from around the world could join. The event is intended to help minority students settle in on a predominantly white campus, Pierre said.

“It can be a little bit of a cultural shock,” Pierre said. “We want you to meet the people who are passionate about helping you.”

One of those people is Dr. Bob Lutz, vice president for student development. Lutz thanked MOSAIC’s student leaders for their ongoing work to make campus “better and more like the kingdom of God” and then welcomed incoming freshman and transfer students.

“We want you to not only find this as a home but a place you can thrive and lead in,” Lutz said.

Kate Magro, assistant vice president for student development, also joined the call, as did Dr. Terriel Byrd, the newly-announced Fellow in the Council for Intercultural Engagement. In his new role, Byrd’s primary responsibility is to create and foster an atmosphere of inclusion, unity, diversity and — above all — love, he said.

MOSAIC House, a part of Residence Life overseen by Kelsey Adams, is in its second year. The women who live in MOSAIC House gather weekly to speak about race, diversity, equity and inclusion and share those conversations with the rest of campus, Pierre said.

Lauren Dumas, a freshman studying management, said she is comforted that there’s a group for people whose life experiences are shaped by the color of their skin.

“MOSAIC, I believe, will help me a lot, not only with being connected to who I am, where I come from and not losing sight of that, but the bigger picture — not losing focus of myself in God,” Dumas said. “I am strong, and challenges that may arise academically or personally are nothing but to be overcome by the grace of God’s mercy.”

The 42 people who participated in the call met in rotating breakout rooms of five. Among them were:

— Jin Hanley, associate professor of dance and Dance Department chair, who shared about her experience at another university as an international student from Korea more than a decade ago.

— Dr. Yolanda Hardy, assistant dean of assessment and accreditation in the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy, who experienced culture shock in higher education and her career. She came from a primarily Black community and then was one of three Black pharmacy students in a class of 100.

— Dr. Thomas Parham, a professor of communication & media studies; a writer and film producer; a mentor and advocate for students of color.

— Nicole Freire, a 2017 biology alumna and international student from Mozambique. Freire went on to earn a master’s degree in epidemiology, which she uses to advocate for marginalized populations.

— Iane Grenz, a 2015 communication alumnus, a first-generation college graduate and immigrant from Brazil.

— Chris Lopez, a 2014 biblical and theological studies alumnus, who has been embracing his Latino culture in a new way since graduating.

— Jedidiah (J.D.) Montalvo, a 2014 biblical studies alumnus and 2019 M.Div. alumnus, who wants to help Latino students live out their culture on campus.

— Lexi Redmond, a 2018 psychology alumnus, who advises companies on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Freire and Redmond were instrumental in the founding of MOSAIC, Pierre said. The current MOSAIC student leadership team includes: Melody Bohannan, a junior biblical and theological studies major from Cocoa Beach, Florida; Josmery Botello, a senior psychology major from Miami; Kayla Buffa, a senior ministry major from St. Louis, Missouri; Gabrielle McIntosh, a senior biology major from Fort Lauderdale; Dennarius Murphy, a junior exercise science major from Tampa, Florida; and Thuy Nguyen, a junior international business and psychology major from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Upcoming MOSAIC events include a chapel at 11 a.m. Oct. 30 and reviews of a book, podcast or TV show every other Thursday, beginning next week. Future panels with alumni will address Women of Color in STEM Research, Closing the Racial Wealth Gap and Navigating Life and Networking as a Person of Color After College.

Follow pba_mosaic on Instagram for updates on MOSAIC’s activities.