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Student Life Chair Alejandro Alonso welcomes students to an open mic night in the Evans Hall courtyard during Affinity Week

Celebrating Our Diverse Community During Affinity Week

Charlotte Suelau ’20 looks back on a week of events focused on sharing stories and building connections.

We all come to Yale SOM with a story. Earlier this semester, the various affinity clubs, in conjunction with student government, hosted a number of events to celebrate the diversity of those stories found across the SOM community. While last year’s Affinity Week featured events that were particular to each club, this year, leads from the affinity clubs—including the Asian American & Pacific Islander Association (AAPIA), Association of Hispanic and Latin American Students (AHLAS), Black Business Alliance (BBA), Consortium, Out of Office (OOO), Veterans Club, and Women in Management (WIM)—along with student government representation from Academic Affairs & Student Life and Community & Inclusion, worked together to create cohesive programming focused on the overlapping and intersecting identities shared across the student body. The goal of the week was to build bridges amongst the clubs themselves and to the broader SOM community, and to encourage collaboration and ongoing engagement across student groups. 

Events for the week included:

  • Coming-Out Monologues: Live storytelling and re-enactments of Out of Office members’ coming-out stories
  • Creating Community Across Difference: a discussion led by &Society
  • Open Mic Night: A cozy gathering in the Evans Hall courtyard for community members to present stories and performances
  • Intersectionality Panel: A conversation to learn about the experiences of students whose overlapping identities present unique challenges and perspectives
  • Bystander Training: A program that teaches participants how to evaluate situations, interrupt harm, and generate positive actions by others
  • Game Night with Boos: A fun way for students to intermingle and play affinity week-inspired events, such as Jeopardy!

A number of events began with the disclaimer, “What is said here, stays here,” to ensure that participants could more freely share intimate details about themselves and their identities without direct attribution outside of a given event. However, discussion of the themes and learnings outside the events was encouraged. The importance of allyship and advocacy across groups emerged as a salient theme from many of these conversations. Whether actively engaging in a discussion, or simply showing up and listening, there is a role for every community member to play in these conversations, and the display of allyship throughout the week was inspiring. 

First-year Community & Inclusion leader Danny Hurvitz said,  “The number one thing I am taking away from this week is that the students here show up. Throughout each of the events, I was surprised to see both panelists and students being open to learning and exchanging information. The growth and knowledge shared during this week will undoubtedly build our already tight-knit community with a greater awareness of one another's' experiences and will help us move forward as a stronger student body.”

Many individuals emphasized that empathy is a collective responsibility that cannot be cultivated in a single week. While the week was filled with several meaningful events, the intention moving forward is that the SOM community continues to make a concerted effort to show up for each other, engage in constructive conversations, and share the burden of advocacy.