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Multicultural Week: Celebrating Diversity

mike davis with photo of freeman pollard

Mike Davis '81 with a photo of his SAU mentor, the late Freeman Pollard, PhD

March 2016


As St. Ambrose celebrates an increasingly diverse campus during Multicultural Week 2016, the annual Freeman Pollard Scholarship Breakfast helps to remind us that reaching back to help others achieve their dreams is an essential part of enhancing campus diversity. It is an equally vital tool for achieving social justice.

More than 120 undergraduate minority students are attending St. Ambrose this year with assistance from the Freeman Pollard Minority Scholarship fund. Among them are Briana Carlson-Morales, a junior from Chicago studying secondary English education, and Demetrius Morrow, a sophomore from Chicago, who is pursuing a degree in industrial engineering. Each shared their stories — and their gratitude — with donors and past alumni recipients of the Freeman Pollard Scholarship assistance at a breakfast on March 29 at the Rogalski Center.

"It has been one great day after another," Morrow, a wide receiver on the SAU football team, said of his experience. "This scholarship program is a lifeline for minority students."

Morales described nothing but "busy days" at St. Ambrose. She is the founder of an SAU chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) honor society that already includes 350 members, and is the president this year of the Multicultural Affairs Community Action (MACA) group. She also is active in campus ministry and its service missions. She is an ambassador for Catholic Relief Services. Morales coaches literacy at an alternative school in Rock Island, Ill., where she also has launched a mentoring program for at-risk youth that is staffed primarily by members of the SAU NSLS chapter. This year, she took a Study Abroad trip to Poland, where she studied Pope John Paul II. She intends to teach inner-city children and is pursuing a summer fellowship at a charter prep school in Boston.

Morales bravely described growing up in poverty — but not in despair. She is proud to be among the largest growing minority population at St. Ambrose, but also noted that Hispanics currently comprise only nine percent of the American population with bachelor's degrees. 

"As a first-generation Latina attending St. Ambrose, the support and resources available to me because of this scholarship, and the people who would do anything to see us succeed, have been life-changing," she said. "There is never a moment when I second-guess whether this was the right place for me, nor have I ever doubted the tremendous care and support I've received from faculty, staff and administration. St. Ambrose University is a special place because everyone is given the same opportunities to succeed, a very important factor when we are talking about the minority community."

The increase in Hispanic students is particularly pleasing to Renee Rodriguez-Seline '96, '04 MBA, a Pollard Scholarship donor eager to reach back to assist minority students. "That speaks to my heart," she said.

Dartrell Lipscomb '94 also described a St. Ambrose experience during which he, like Morales, founded a campus organization, the Forum for Campus Unity. He also served as president of the Black Student Union. He met often  with President Emeritus Edward Rogalski, PhD, and said he learned a great deal about "how to interact with people of different opinions" as he worked to help St. Ambrose grow more racially diverse. An important aspect of his SAU experience didn't reveal itself, Lipscomb said, until he had enrolled in a master's program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. "I found my St. Ambrose professors and classes had me overwhelmingly prepared for grad school," he said.

The breakfast audience also was moved by the story – and the rich gospel voice – of Miracle Leach '13, who will earn her Master of Social Work degree this spring. 

Mike Davis '81 spoke of his experience with professor Freeman Pollard, PhD, the first black professor at St. Ambrose, and a mentor to Davis as he earned his degree while serving in the Army at the Rock Island (Ill.) Arsenal and raising a young family. Said Davis, who grew up poor, "People think because you come from the projects you can't ever leave the projects and you can't change someone's life," Davis said. "Dr. Pollard convinced me that wasn't true."

Read more about Mike Davis' relationship with Dr. Pollard in a Spring 2015 Scene article.

MORE LIKE THIS:About SAU Students, Advancement Office, AmbroseZine, For Alumni, For Prospective Undergraduates, Video / Photo

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