Zola Lamothe, BS’22, has a message for her fellow students at IUPUI.
“I hope students realize the magnitude—the power—behind their voices. Don’t be afraid to change things in your life for the better,” said Zola.
As a Social Justice Resident Assistant (RA) and a Social Justice Scholar, Zola believes it’s important to be an agent for change.
“Being able to bring awareness to the issues that people of color face every day and to work to overcome those issues is so important to me,” she explained. “Systemic racism is a big, giant issue, and as an RA, I can focus on my campus first: What can I do within my own community to help people learn about this issue? Collectively, we can all make an impact.”
An Indianapolis native, Zola found herself looking for community when she started at IUPUI, and she found it within multiple organizations and programs. She recently talked about those experiences at an IUPUI Chancellor’s Circle event.
“First, the Kelley Bridge Program helped me find my way around campus, learn about campus resources, and meet other students,” she told attendees. “The highlight of my Bridge experience was learning about the different social identities of my peers. I learned we all reached our destination of attending college by different paths, and I discovered a stronger sense of self. The social identity activity also broadened my class’ worldview. I would love to expand this experience by implementing cultural competency classes for all freshmen.”
Zola also talked about finding community through the IUPUI Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program (DEAP). She says it provides a safe space to share concerns and empowers students.
“This program is near and dear to my heart. DEAP not only serves as a home away from home for students of color, but it gives us the tools to reach our full potential. Having a marginalized identity as students of color means we are subjected to more oppression. We experience microaggressions and are called upon to answer race-related questions in class. Navigating college and systemic racism is challenging, however, because of the DEAP, we are not alone.”
Zola traveled to Ghana for a DEAP-sponsored study abroad program, which she says was the highlight of her life thus far.
“One of my life goals was to go to Africa, and going there with other students of color was such an impactful experience. It was truly the highlight of my life. As a Black person in America, I always think about where I came from. Learning about my history and experiencing it firsthand really brought it all home and made it tangible.”
On the trip, students learned about the past, present and future of Ghana, retracing the Atlantic slave trade route.
“We hear about slavery, but when you can see where your ancestors were and the dungeons used for slaves, you see the reality of the issue,” Zola added.
“We discovered our history before slavery by learning the customs of the Ashanti tribe. We connected with our ancestors by walking the same path they took before being sold at the slave market. We felt the same sense of empowerment by reading the words of W. E .B Dubois in his home,” she explained to attendees at the recent Chancellor’s event.
“I also never thought I’d be able to do something like that,” she said. “Most of our group had never left the country, and some had not been a plane. But we were able to take this trip for free, all because of donations to IUPUI and DEAP. For that, I am forever grateful.”
Zola is a member of the executive board for the Student African American Sisterhood at IUPUI, and she’s a part of the Black Student Union. Additionally, she participated in the Inclusive Housing Action Project, a committee started by IUPUI housing last year.
As a marketing major with minors in Africana studies and design production, Zola will start I-Core within the Kelley Indianapolis Undergraduate Program this year. She says she hopes to go into the fashion industry after college, and she wants to use her marketing skills to make it more inclusive.
“I think it’s the perfect blend of my passions with business,” said Zola. “I feel the fashion industry through history has reflected society, and it has also ignored certain groups of people or identities. I want to use ad campaigns to bring awareness and also to validate all identities.”
In the meantime, she’ll continue to make an impact on campus.
“I think IUPUI does a great job of communicating the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Zola added. “I always want to make sure we are all working on the actions behind the words.”
Posted by: Teresa Mackin, firstname.lastname@example.org