Celebrate Diversity Digest – February 2024

Featured Articles & Contributors

Multicultural Center Celebrates It's First Year

Almost one year ago, the Multicultural Center opened its doors and signaled a new era at Stockton University. Yesenia Pacheco takes readers on a journey to see how the center transformed from an idea into a gathering space for the campus community. 

About Yesenia Pacheco
Yesenia Pacheco is coordinator for Student Transition, Access and Retention, a 2023 alumna of the Master of Social Work program and a new member of the Campus Committee on Diversity & Inclusive Excellence.

Read More | Multicultural Center Celebrates It's First Year

Focus on Food Allergies

According to Laurie Griscom, around 33 million Americans are impacted by food allergens and sometimes lack the support needed for them to avoid severe symptoms such as anaphylaxis. Learn more about this topic and what recommendations she has following her quantitative study. 

About Laurie Griscom

Dr. Laurie Griscom serves as the executive director of Event Services and Campus Engagement. She earned her doctoral degree in Stockton University’s Organizational Leadership program.

Read More | Focus on Food Allergies

Journey from Teen to Scholar Through Heights Philadelphia

A rose growing through concrete is rare but not impossible, as demonstrated by Jestina Drysdale. The now successful scholar, doctoral candidate and higher education professional was once a teenager who felt that college was out of reach - until Heights Philadelphia helped her find her way. 

About Jestina Drysdale 
Jestina Drysdale is the assistant director of Student Conduct, a doctoral candidate for the Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership and a new member of the Committee on Campus Diversity & Inclusive Excellence.

Read More | Journey from Teen to Scholar Through Heights Philadelphia

Post-Pandemic Burnout and Inequities Among Black Women in Higher Education

While four years have passed since the first cases of COVID-19 hit, the effects of the pandemic are only just beginning to show. Esther Lawrence explores the burnout faculty and staff in higher education - in particular, Black women - have been experiencing and offers some solutions. 

About Esther Lawrence 
Dr. Esther Lawrence is the assistant dean for the School of Business, a frequent contributor to the Celebrate Diversity Digest and a longtime member of the Committee on Campus Diversity & Inclusive Excellence.

Read More | Post-Pandemic Burnout and Inequities Among Black Women in Higher Education

Emojis, Slang and (no) Punctuation: Finding the Balance in Communicating Across Generations

Based on research she completed for a presentation for Ocean County College, Stacey Clapp writes about intergenerational communication and offers tips for avoiding miscommunication in the workplace and the classroom. 

About Stacey Clapp 
Stacey Clapp is the director of Strategic Communications in University Relations & Marketing and a longtime member of the Committee on Campus Diversity & Inclusive Excellence.

Read More | Emojis, Slang and (no) Punctuation: Finding the Balance in Communicating Across Generations

Digest Staples – What's in Every Issue 

Stock image of a hand reaching for a book

Valerie's Library

An interesting collaboration in North Carolina and interesting read from GSA... 

Stock image of people meeting each other, a handshake in the middle

Hi, My Name is...

... Zornitsa (Zori) Kalibatseva, associate professor of Psychology. 

To embrace diversity is to care enough to listen with an open mind and to speak up during difficult conversations.

The #StocktonVoices series gives students, faculty and staff a platform to both speak and listen to our own diverse voices. 

Since 2020, more than 40 members of the campus community have shared their perspective on race, culture, equality, diversity and inclusion.

As first-generation college students, we walk a line no one we know has (ever) traveled. My heritage has always been important to me because it means carrying the strength of my parents and ancestors who faced adversities and obstacles with courage so that I can have more opportunities than they did.
Yuliana Tapia-Lopez
Yuliana Tapia-Lopez
Stockton immediately drew my attention when I saw all the healthcare programs they had to offer... But, most importantly, Stockton allowed me to be a commuter student. This way, I was able to ensure that my sister Wendy had an easier transition to Stockton so that she, too, could continue her academic studies while also maintaining a strong family bond overall!
Katie Mendoza
Katie Mendoza
I want my parents to feel proud of their daughter as I come from a society where girls are not given opportunities to study far from home, especially abroad. It is possible only because of them having faith in me who have sent me here, so far away from them, to fulfill my dreams. I am lucky to have such parents who always supported me in every situation.
Riya Goyal
Riya Goyal
What being a first-generation student means to me is that I’m the first in my lineage to do something. I am the first to set an example for my family members. My younger siblings, cousins and even my future children will see me and say, “He was the first to go to college, and I want to be next.” 
Nasir Terry
Nasir Terry
Whether it's something small, such as giving advice, or something major, like teaching students how to be able to properly network, I want to take the privilege that Dr. E,  and Stockton Esports have given me and empower students who may not have been given the privilege or had the experience that I have, so that I may equip and empower them to advance in their communities and excel in their careers.
Rebecca Nagy Miller
Rebecca Nagy Miller
I just feel like being able to work (with) the Dean of Students has been one of the best opportunities I have received at Stockton because it's honestly changed my college experience a lot – a lot more than I expected that it would... I've met so many people who have been impactful in my college experience simply by working at the offices that I've been able to work at.
Vera Tagtaa
Vera Tagtaa

You know, after graduating from Stockton, I look forward to finding ways to advocate for marginalized, underserved and misunderstood communities. Everyone has a story – some full of happiness but others full of pain – and I want to be in a position where I can help them through their journey of self-discovery like my mentors did for me.

Zikra Naz
Zikra Naz


Yesenia staring up the mural shortly after the unveiling
Yesenia Pacheco, coordinator for Student Transition, Access and Retention, wrote about the December 2023 unveiling of the Stockton Faces hallway mural in the academic spine. Photos by Lizzie Nealis. 

On Dec. 14, 2023, an air of excitement filled the F-100 hallway as a gathering of staff and students eagerly awaited the unveiling of the Stockton Faces mural.

Yesenia in front of the F-100 hallway mural

F-100 hallway mural

Attendees of the December unveiling posing for photos

Attendees of the December unveiling posing for photos

Attendees of the December unveiling posing for photos

F-100 hallway mural

The newly transformed space, adorned in the vibrant hues of Osprey blue and black with a stunning collage of intentionally selected photos, set the stage for an extraordinary moment.

Ana Edmondson, the visionary behind the project, articulated her initial aspiration, "When I envisioned the project, my goal was to capture the diverse and beautiful faces at Stockton University."

Edmondson, assistant vice president of Student Transitions, Access, and Retention, gathered with attendees in front of the mural and marked the joyous celebration with photos and selfies and called for more spaces like the Stockton Faces hallway across the campus.

"Through my dissertation research, the findings suggested a strong correlation between the lack of representation and feelings of invisibility. Although we have widened access to ethnically diverse students, efforts must continue to foster a more positive cultural campus climate to help ease the transition from home to an unfamiliar environment for students. This artistic display is one example for diversifying a space to increase feelings of affirmation and visibility for our students."

After the unveiling, the hallway was a lively scene as students, faculty and staff immersed themselves in the celebration, enjoying music, refreshments, winter activities, networking, exploring the F-100 hallway offices and discovering the resources they offered. 

Kimoni Yaw Ajani
Kimoni Yaw Ajani is pictured above during a trip to Ghana, which you can read more about below. 


Kimoni Yaw Ajani, a tenure track assistant professor of the Africana Studies program, has published his first book, "The Afrikan Revolution in Ayiti: Libète Ou Lanmò, Freedom or Death." 

About "The Afrikan Revolution in Ayiti: Libète ou Lanmò, Freedom or Death"

Kimoni Yaw Ajani’s book is an Afrocentric re-examination and interpretation around the historiography of the Revolution in Ayiti (Haiti) and provides an in-depth study that highlights several significant Afrikan epistemological and cosmological aspects that led to freedom. These aspects include but are not limited to: the persistence of Afrikan complementary forces in Ayiti, Vodou/Vodun and Afrikan cosmology, Afrikan combat traditions such as Tire Machèt, and the numerous Afrikan languages, personalities, and roles that emerged from the growing numbers of Afrikans brought to Ayiti as a result of the European slave trade. Ajani calls for building communities on the best of Afrikan epistemological foundations and reclaiming Afrikan history. 

The Food Assistance Program will host the first ever cultural food drive for throughout February. 

In partnership with the Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity and the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, the program is collecting nonperishable dry goods, spices and ethnic hair care products from the Office of Event Services (CC-241), Multicultural Center and Stockton – Atlantic City Office of Residential Life (A1-127D). 

About Stockton's Food Assistance Program

The Stockton Food Assistance Program launched in spring 2015 as a collaborative effort between the Student Senate and the Board of Trustees to help a growing number of students who reported experiencing varying levels of food insecurity.

The Food Assistance Program supports Stockton students through access to its on-campus food pantries, dining dollars and other community resources. Currently enrolled students are eligible to participate in the Food Assistance Program. Upon completing the enrollment form, students can visit both campus pantries.

The 2023-24 Season of Stockton's Performing Arts Center (PAC) has something for everybody.

The spring is a perfect time to catch a show (or two) on the PAC mainstage. Consider supporting the arts and purchasing a ticket for one of these shows.

Stockton Now – Winter 2024 Issue

Stockton’s Meditation Room – A Memoir 

Persistence and patience pay off, as evidenced by the students in the Muslim Student Association (MSA).

The student organization cut the ribbon on a brand-new Meditation Room on campus during the Fall 2023 semester, just steps away from the new Multicultural Center. The room came after months of planning, research and two written proposals by the students and with the support of staff members in Student Development, the Dean of Students Office and Residential Life.

In celebration of the new space opening, let’s take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the first Meditation Room ribbon cutting that happened almost 10 years ago with Sadaf Chaudhry, who served as MSA president from 2011-12 and president of the Campus Religious Council from 2012-13.

Members of the MSA tabling for the Get Involved Fair.
Members of the Msulim Student Association tabling for Islam Awareness Week in 2014. Sadaf is on the furthest left!

From F Wing to N Wing: The First Meditation Room  

Atlantic City native Chaudhry graduated from Stockton in the fall of 2014 from the Biology program with a concentration in Neuroscience. Aside from her extracurricular activities in the above clubs and being a staff writer for the Argo, she mostly remembers the new construction happening on campus.

Sadaf's 2013 summer article, soliciting for members for newly reestablished MSA

Sadaf's original Argo article about the first Meditation Room


“The Campus Center had opened either a year or a couple of years prior to that, so it was pretty new. I used the Campus Center a lot just to study and to hold and attend meetings of various clubs. I remember there being a lot of other buildings still under construction, and in the year prior (to graduating), there were a lot of parking issues,” Chaudhry said with a small laugh. 

According to Chaudhry, the MSA was established and then underwent a hiatus before being revived in 2009 or 2010. It was during that revival that Chaudhry became president; she facilitated meetings and gatherings in the group, mainly in the Campus Center, but remembers having prayer mats at the ready in the F Wing Atrium (read: the lounge full of trees in front of the Richard E. Bjork Library) just in case meeting times coincided with daily prayer times.

“I remember that we kept a box of prayer mats, and you'll have to excuse me because I may be forgetting some things because it's been some time, but from what I remember, we had a cardboard box with prayer mats and whenever we had like communal prayer either during or after MSA meetings or for special events so that we would just pray there. I think we also would pray in whichever room we booked for (general) meetings.”

“People had been asking about it for years before even I was a student there, which kind of makes sense because I imagine there's a need for it on any campus, for people to pray, but also to meditate and just to be able to rest and relax. There needs to be dedicated space for that, so it kind of made sense to me that people have been asking about it before,” Chaudhry noted. 

Stories of Rescue, Hope and Resilience

"Every day is different here," Irvin Moreno-Rodriguez ’15, interim director of the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton, said while sitting in the Center's beautiful Schimmel and Hoogenboom Righteous Remembrance Room. His smile is contagious, as is his passion for his work on the Holocaust and genocide education. 

He graduated from Stockton in 2015, with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Holocaust & Genocide Studies, and received his master’s degree in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (MAHG) in 2022.

"Just last week, I received a phone call from someone from Cumberland County whose mother-in-law is a Holocaust survivor, and she's still alive and wants to tell her story. And I think she's 90-something years old," he shared. "But, when I looked into her mother-in-law's story, her brother was also a Holocaust survivor and her father. And the whole thing about that was they had thought their father was murdered during the Holocaust."

He explains that the Kindertransport - a system that moved young Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Europe to mainly England - rescued the siblings.

I truly believe in telling these stories of resilience and rescue and, you know, even working in this exhibit. It was these ordinary gestures of goodwill and humanity that became extraordinary during a time when people were bystanders and perpetrators during the Holocaust."

"Their adoptive parents would write letters to their parents. And then, they stopped receiving letters at one point, so they thought the parents were murdered. The mother was, unfortunately, but the father survived, and they ended up reuniting 17 years after the war had ended because the son had grown up in Cumberland County and joined the military and was able to go to Germany and find his father.”

Moreno-Rodriguez goes on to share that these calls and stories make every day different and is why the Center is so important to the community and beyond. 

As we sat together, I found myself having the privilege of learning so much about a topic that, at first thought, is so deeply sad but also has so many stories of resilience and rescue woven throughout it. And hope. Moreno-Rodriguez has a gift for sharing those important moments with his students, with the community and with anyone willing to listen. 

"'Whoever listens to a witness, becomes a witness,' that's a famous quote by Elie Wiesel, and it always has stood out to me," he shares. 

The Trip of a Lifetime 

Irvin and Maud

Brandenburg Gate, an 18th century monument

The study group

Site of a protest against the Third Reich

Carolyn Stefanou, Maud Dahme and Irvin Moreno-Rodriguez

Place where Maud and her sister Rita hid during the Holocaust, now a church

In 2021, Moreno-Rodriguez was appointed to the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, only the second person to represent Stockton on the commission. 

This appointment resulted in the trip of a lifetime. He explained that every year, the Commission sponsors a trip for teachers from all over the state and a commission member, led by Holocaust survivor and longest-serving commissioner Maud Dahme.

"This year, it just happened to be me, and I am eternally grateful," he reflected. "So, from July 17-27, me, Maud and 28 teachers from around the state, mainly high school teachers and also members of the NJEA executive board, visited sites related to the Holocaust in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and the Netherlands." 

[Social justice is] Understanding that not everyone comes from the same starting point. I think it’s easy to tell people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but then you assume they have bootstraps to begin with.
President Joe Bertolino
President Joe Bertolino
"Empathy in Action"
By Samantha Whitehurst '13
Stockton is the place... Everyone gravitated toward me, and I didn’t even know these people. Stockton is a family. Stockton is bigger than basketball. This is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
Djorkaeff "DJ" Campbell
Djorkaeff "DJ" Campbell
"From Jamaica to Stockton: The Journey to Becoming a Shooting Star"
By Susan Allen '09, '14
Being able to produce an at-risk species at the hatchery, release it into the wild, and later see that species thriving in its natural habitat when you return to monitor them is the most rewarding feeling.
Jessica Radich '15
Jessica Radich '15
"A 'Turtle-y' Awesome Job"
By Rachel Syzmanski '24
I also wanted to get a more holistic overview of pharmacology than what is typical in a STEM degree. I wanted some of the cultural elements of drug history and current cultural practices surrounding drug use and to bring in some of the neuroscience that you probably wouldn’t get in a typical pharmacology degree.
Trey Brasher '20
Trey Brasher '20
"Trey Brasher's Trip to High-Level Success"
By Mark Melhorn
You have us two people coming together, and there’s an alchemy element to it: we didn’t know exactly how it would all come together with so many hands in the pot and a lot of people involved. We were just amazed at how much our vision remained intact and how supportive people at the University were.
Aaron Moss
Aaron Moss
"Award-Winning TV Pilot Impacted by Strikes, but Still Gaining Traction"
By Loukaia Taylor '22
You're not just another number: when we see someone struggling, we're like, ‘Hey, I have some notes. If you need help, this is what I have for you.' ...We truly do care about the other person sitting next to us because we hope they do the same for us; it's part of why we even went into this program.
Emily Menck
Emily Menck
"The Mencks Heart Stockton"
By Loukaia Taylor '22

Since 2010, the interesting journeys and achievements of the Stockton community have been highlighted through a comprehensive ezine. 

Stockton Now, the official Stockton University ezine, is published twice a year, in the winter and summer, by University Relations & Marketing.

It is distributed to more than 40,000 alumni and friends, as well as Stockton faculty and staff and community members.


Featured Gallery

Faculty Led Program – Ghana

The group visited the Ancestral River Park and poured libations in an emotional ceremony that culminated in rain during the region's dry season.

The group visited the Ancestral River Park and poured libations in an emotional ceremony that culminated in rain during the region's dry season.

The group visited the Ancestral River Park and poured libations in an emotional ceremony that culminated in rain during the region's dry season.

The group visited the African Ancestral Wall in Laya Zaare.

Students, staff and faculty posing for a group photo in Ghana.

Students, staff and faculty posing for a group photo in Ghana.

It is difficult to put the experience of traveling to Ghana and seeing the places where so many of our ancestors were held captive into words. It was a truly spiritual journey to walk in their footsteps. I believe that we were all forever changed and bonded by it. And I look forward to offering more students the opportunity to see the Motherland!"
Donnetrice Allison, chair of the Africana Studies program 

Hot Off the Press Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in the News 

The Unified Black Student Society raised the Pan-African flag on Thursday, Feb. 1, to launch the Black History Month celebration on Stockton's campus.
The Unified Black Student Society raised the Pan-African flag on Thursday, Feb. 1, to launch the Black History Month celebration on Stockton's campus. Photo by Susan Allen.

Galloway, N.J. — Did you know that the Pan-African flag was the first flag of cultural heritage to be permanently displayed in the Arts & Sciences Circle at Stockton University?

According to Haashim Smith-Johnson, an Admissions recruiter and former president of the Unified Black Student Society, the idea of having the flag raised for more than the month of February came out of the organization’s desire to make a statement on campus in 2017. He encouraged students to honor the organization’s legacy through decisive action when thinking of ways to make Stockton an inclusive campus for everyone.

“This one thought turned into action, which turned into Black Stockton history,” Smith-Johnson, who is currently staff advisor for UBSS, said. “Student leaders of UBSS and all of the other adjacent student organizations: no idea is outlandish. Please continue to represent the culture and advocate for yourself. Your future self, as well as future generations of marginalized Stockton students, will absolutely thank you.”

This was just one of many valuable lessons that attendees heard during the annual Black History Month Flag Raising on Thursday, Feb. 1. Following a beautiful rendition of the Black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” by student Lillian Nickels and professor of Music Beverly Vaughn, several speakers all had a common thread — the importance of acknowledging history that future generations will learn from and study.

About Celebrate Diversity

The Committee on Campus Diversity and Inclusive Excellence (CCDIE) welcomes new and returning readers to the latest issue of Celebrate Diversity Digest. We invite you to learn more about issues of campus diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice covered in this newsletter. 

The CCDIE includes faculty, staff, students and alumni who contribute to the University’s efforts to support and further these four areas on our campus, as well as the University’s mission to develop engaged and effective citizens with the capacity to adapt to change in a multicultural, interdependent world. 

About the Communications Subcommittee

This subcommittee explores best practices of marketing and raising awareness of Stockton’s diversity and inclusion programs and efforts and then implements those practices, where appropriate, in collaboration with University Relations and Marketing. 

Communications Subcommittee Members 

  • Valerie HayesChief Officer for Diversity & Inclusion and convener for all subcommittees 
  • Stacey Clapp, Director of Strategic Communications, University Relations & Marketing 
  • Loukaia Taylor '22, Multicultural Communications Specialist, University Relations & Marketing 
  • Kameika Murphy, Associate Professor of Atlantic History, School of Arts & Humanities
  • Esther Lawrence, Assistant Dean of Business, School of Business
  • Seth Richards, Associate Director for the Office of Student Conduct, Student Affairs
  • Jestina Drysdale, Assistant Director for the Office of Student Conduct, Student Affairs
  • Yesenia Pacheco '22/'23, Coordinator of Student Transition, Access and Retention, Student Affairs
  • Van Nhi Ho, Coordinator of LGBTQ+ Initiatives, Women's Gender & Sexuality Center
  • Ashley Dalisay '23, Student, Accelerated Bachelor's of Nursing
  • Amira Walker '23, Student, Business Dual Degree