Jeffrey K. Coleman '01

Jeffrey K. Coleman ’01

DEGREES: B.A. in public policy, minor in legal studies; M.S. in counseling with concentration in student development in higher education, Central Connecticut State University; Ph.D. in educational studies with concentration in cultural studies, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

JOB TITLE: Director, Multicultural Center, Georgia State University

FAVORITE TRINITY MEMORY: I really enjoyed being a P.R.I.D.E. (Promoting Respect for Inclusive Diversity in Education) and bringing first-year students to Six Flags at the end of P.R.I.D.E. orientation. I remember attending the mentor retreats and participating in the ropes courses. We created a bond that lasted through the year. We developed a community of support among each other, which gave me a sense of belonging with the institution. As a result, I am working to recreate my Trinity College experience for students here at GSU!

What is the mission of the Multicultural Center at GSU? Being the first director and opening the center, I had the opportunity to write our mission statement. Our mission is to promote a community of support and success for students, particularly traditionally underserved populations.

Why is a center such as this important?  We support the academic mission of the university by hosting discussion forums and faculty book talks (an idea sparked at Trinity when I attended book talks in Hamlin Hall). The forums — on topics ranging from education disparities to law enforcement issues — are particularly relevant to students coming to our campuses. We also create a culture of care for numerous cultural communities represented on our campuses. In addition, we host Heritage Month celebrations (for example, Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBT History Month) to promote cultural awareness. We embrace students with “intersecting identities,” who belong to more than one underserved community. Most importantly, we strive to provide support for all the different faces that make up our student body.

What has it been like to be able to put your stamp on the center as its first director? It has been very energizing and exciting! I want the center to provide support by helping students develop skills in cultural competence to understand how their individual identities and the identities of others impact their purpose and vision for life and influence personal, academic, and career aspirations. Employers are looking for students with these skills who can apply them in diverse settings.

What do you enjoy most about your work? I enjoy seeing students come to our center because it is a safe space. We continuously search for creative ways to connect with our very diverse student body. For instance, for Asian-Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, we hosted a festival featuring a musical performance and tables hosted by student organizations and academic departments in a downtown park that GSU shares with the city of Atlanta. Some of our university librarians who specialize in Asian studies and culture hosted a table with activities and resources during the festival. This event enabled students to experience Asian culture in various ways.

What are the biggest challenges you face? GSU recently consolidated with Georgia Perimeter College, an access college with five campuses that will add more than 20,000 students to our approximately 33,000 students. I have been charged with expanding the programming, resources, and services of the Multicultural Center to six campuses. I am thinking about how to divide or reassign staff. We will need to be mobile to reach all of the students.

Was there a Trinity professor who was particularly influential? If so, who was it, and why? Bob Peltier, principal lecturer in the Allan K. Smith Center for Writing and Rhetoric. I was first introduced to him through a composition course he taught in the Upward Bound Program while I was in high school. He also taught my “RHET 101. Writing” and “RHET 208. Argument and Research Writing” classes at Trinity. I later served as his TA for both courses. Professor Peltier has influenced several critical junctures in my life. He helped me develop a great appreciation for writing and revisions, teaching that great writing is never finished.

How did your experiences at Trinity prepare you for what you do today? Coming to Trinity, a predominantly white institution, was a bit of a culture shock from Bloomfield High School, which was largely black. I immediately connected with the Multicultural Affairs Office. I was one of the first mentors in the establishment of the P.R.I.D.E. program. I was a work-study student employee in the Dean’s Office and involved in the Student Government Association. After graduation, I worked as a graduate assistant in the Multicultural Affairs Office. These experiences helped me discover my passion to motivate students from underserved populations toward persistence and academic success in college.