When Mungano, Baker’s student-run organization for diversity and inclusion, initiated a pair of programs this fall—My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper—they called on alumni to share their experiences and expertise in a series of panel discussions. The in-depth discussions among students and alumni focused on becoming young adults and approaching adult life in ways that champion diversity and inclusion.
“Thus far, we’ve had three or four individual talks or panels that have dealt with minority men’s health, profiling, mental health, and relationships. The talks cover diversity and inclusion in today’s society, and we have alums come in and talk about their experiences. There’s a real mentoring component that happens, and I think it gives alums an idea of what they can do here after their time as a student at Baker University,” said Shelby Perez, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion and wellness programs at Baker.
Mungano was founded more than 50 years ago by Baker’s first Black professor, Dr. Jesse Milan, a longtime Civil Rights activist. The word Mungano is derived from the Swahili phrase, “Mungano Wa Wanafunzi Weuzi,” which means brothers and sisters united. The organization holds annual events, but like nearly everything else this past year, these events were altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting social distancing restrictions. The roughly 30 members of Mungano have held their regular meetings over Zoom, and that’s the format the My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper panels have taken.
“It would be great if we could have some events in person,” Perez said, “but we know now that we can do it another way. [COVID has] kind of opened up possibilities in that way.”
Typically, My Brother’s Keeper talks involve men, while My Sister’s Keeper involves women, but not always. That wouldn’t be consistent with the spirit of Mungano’s mission of inclusion.
“We had one of the more recent My Sister’s Keeper sessions with three men panelists. We wanted to show the women a different perspective. The men shared personal stories, and we’ll do the same with women panelists for My Brother’s Keeper. I know our students have been thrilled to connect with alumni and hear the experiences they’ve had,” Perez said.
And it turns out, the Zoom panels have been a great experience for alumni as well.
“I’ve taken part in a few My Brother’s Keeper and one My Sister’s Keeper events, helping out any way I can. I was young once upon a time. It’s important to be a resource for some of these kids that isn’t their parents,” said Tavis Banks, ’12 BSM, leadership coach and training manager in Fullerton, California.
Participating in the My Sister’s Keeper panel was especially interesting for Banks. The topic dealt with relationships, and as the father of two college-age men, Banks felt he had wisdom to impart when the students asked, “Why can’t I get a man to commit?” or “What do they mean when they say this?”
Topics for My Brother’s Keeper have included everything from what’s going on in the world today to airing complaints about campus food.
“Most of the guys are athletes,” Banks said. “They wanted to know how you maintain a healthy diet during COVID when the cafeteria is closed.”
Banks, who attended the School of Professional and Graduate Studies, said he’s loved hearing stories about campus life that he never had the opportunity to live.
“I just love educating. I feel I can provide these young people some of what I didn’t have growing up,” Banks said.
Alex Villalobos-McAnderson, ’06, feels her experiences allow her to make positive contributions to Baker students on two fronts. The former Baker student and soccer player first ventured into corporate life after graduation before leaving that for a more holistic lifestyle and starting her own company—Villalobos Vitality—where she serves as a corporate energy coach, Reiki master and teacher, yoga instructor, and relationship coach.
“I came from the finance side but found that the real journey was within. I can speak the language of the corporations. And I can speak with students about stress management and self-care. We don’t realize how much pressure these young people are under. I’ve had beautiful, candid conversations about expectations and how to manage them,” Villalobos-McAnderson said.
Ron Atkinson, ’10, who serves as an assistant director for fraternity and sorority life at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, has remained in touch with Baker since graduating with a major in physical education. When he was approached about the opportunity to share his experiences with current Baker students, he jumped at the chance.
“This was a great opportunity to enrich these young men and women in ways we didn’t get when we were in school. I’ve spoken with young men around the topic of leadership and how leadership relates to ethical standing. And I’ve spoken about relationships with women: 33-year-old Ron can share experience that 22-year-old Ron didn’t have,” Atkinson said.
Like Banks and Villalobos-McAnderson, Atkinson relishes the opportunity to give back to an institution that shaped his life.
“[Baker] was an institution that essentially crystalized a dream—of going to college,” he said. “Any opportunity I get to lend my perspective and talent back to that institution, I’m going to leap at. I’ll do anything I can to positively impact the institution.”
Mungano will continue seeking the input and participation from those who have blazed the trail for current students.
“Mungano wants alumni to know we’re so thankful for their support. We think these students today will be just as excited when they’re alumni and can come back and support the organization,” Perez said.
Thank You to These Panelists
The following alumni served as panelists to support our Mungano events throughout the fall 2020 semester:
Antonio Adgers, ’16, Ronald Atkinson, ’10, Dr. Alexander Baird, ’16, Tavis Banks, ’12, BSM, Adam Barry, ’09, Deion Christophe, ’02, Brittany Coleman, ’08, Jasmine Crews, ’16 MAOL, Di Tu Dissassa, ’10, Shontelle Dixon, ’10, Silas Dulan, ’05, ’13 MSM, Dr. Preston Edwards, ’06, Andrew Hannon, ’09, Jess Hannon, ’14, Randall Henderson, ’88, Eddie King, ’89, Dr. Khadijah Lane, ’16, Nicole Leonard, ’03, Alex Villalobos-McAnderson, ’06, Greg Patton, ’84, Calvin Pearce, ’12, Aphton Riley, ’08, Ray Torry, ’96, ’02 MBA, Michael Williams, ’84, and Zandy Woodruff-Hall, ’11.