Kupita/Transiciones offers guidance for new multicultural students on campus despite COVID-19 restrictions

Members of Kupita in the 2019 closing ceremony.

Chris Bright Reporter

The Student Multicultural Center’s Kupita/Transiciones program offers African American, Latinx, Hispanic, Native American and all multiracial students the opportunity to get better orientated with college life and to receive mentorship from students with similar backgrounds.

However, due to regulations brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kupita/Transiciones program was forced to adapt like every other program on campus. K/T officials were forced to cut the program’s in person participants by more than half to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions on campus.

Typically a four-day experience that allows students enrolled in the program to move onto campus ahead of their peers, SMC coordinators were forced to make major changes to the program while still ensuring that students involved received the proper guidance like students that have come through the program in the past. 

“I don’t think it was as engaging as years in the past,” said SMC Director Michael Daniels. “It makes a difference when you can’t be close to people. … We had to limit the amount of people. We changed from a four-day program to a one-day program. … We tried to have them meet each other, meet their mentors and do some fun things within the health and safety restrictions that we had.”

Kupita/Transiciones normally consists of around 400 students in total: 300 students new to Kent’s campus and 100 student leaders. However, the program was forced to decrease its numbers to 150 students in person, 30 students that participated virtually and 75 student leaders over a span of several days.

Despite the setbacks that K/T faced last year, program director Michael Daniels and students involved with the program are hopeful fall 2021 sessions will offer students the highly invaluable experience that the program is known for.

“I think we need to be more prepared. I know last year we just got thrown into a pandemic so we didn’t know what things were going to look like at all,” said sophomore student and K/T participant Kristyn Hibbett. “We need to find ways to have different interactions … and if we can have more than one day.”

K/T leadership has devised several plans for the upcoming fall 2021 sessions. Plans A, B and C are all in the works for the upcoming year based upon how many COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in the following months.   

“Plan A is would be back to an open campus,” said Daniels. “That’s with the assumption that a lot more folks are vaccinated and the amount of people that can be in certain rooms will increase. … We would be a lot more close to normal. If we were able to do that I think we’d just have a small decrease in numbers. … We would still try to do the four days and operate as many things outside in open environments as we can.”

Plan B would entail decreasing the number of participants in the program even more to adhere with university guidelines, while still operating the full four days. 

The most restrictive situation that K/T leadership has planned for is plan C.  “Plan C would be to replicate what we did last year,” said Daniels. “We’d have to plan to be more limited with our numbers, and because of that we’d have to go back to that one-day model where we only bring in a small amount of students per day.”

Regardless of which plan the SMC ultimately ends up putting into place for incoming students next fall, those who sign up are sure to benefit from the experience K/T provides them.

“The goal is getting students connected in early and to help them develop a meaningful connection to the SMC and Kent State. To give them people to know and a real community,” said Daniels. “That’s what K/T has always been — a community.” 

Chris Bright covers diversity. Contact him at [email protected]