Class of 2021 seniors are raising money to establish the UM Inclusive Excellence Retention Fund with the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. The fund will provide non-recurring grants to students who actively promote inclusion, diversity, awareness and respect.
Flint Christian, senior class president, said the gift will help ensure that students who value inclusion and apply for the fund will not have to leave campus due to financial hardships.
“It will help keep students who are making this their mission at Ole Miss stay at Ole Miss, involved in organizations, opening up new organizations, reaching out to new students and maintaining personal connections, even if there’s some sort of financial hardship that gets in the way,” Christian said.
Chrisitan also said that the 2021 class officers wanted to choose a gift that provides a direct benefit and immediate impact on the current student body and incoming freshmen.
“I think we were thinking about the close relationships we have with the undergraduate students and the freshmen coming into college and thinking about what we want to see from the university and overall atmosphere,” Christian said.
Meredith McDonald, class of 2021 treasurer, said the officers reached out to the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement about the gift over the summer “because of what was going on in the world.”
“It was in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, and the (Confederate) statue had just been taken down,” McDonald said. “We wanted to focus on something that would be educational and would be impactful for our students so that they, as individuals, leave as more inclusive or better versed on what diversity really means.”
McDonald said the senior class officers wanted the gift to be a fund rather than a structural or physical donation, so the gift will impact the university and the individual students who make up the university.
“I think it’s special to our class because we are kind of on a cusp of a turning point — or I hope we’re on a cusp of a turning point — as a university where our image, as far as diversity and inclusion goes, can be shifted and can be changed,” McDonald said. “For our class to be an integral part of funding that and making that happen faster is something we can look back on in 20 or 30 years and be really proud of.”
Monetary donations for the senior class gift are being collected throughout the rest of the year.