As part of the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative for Diversity and Inclusion, we at I Am Rutgers have started the #RUIDProject to highlight the many diverse identities, experiences, and reflections of the Rutgers student body. Students featured in this project share how they choose to identify themselves and how Rutgers either helps them express their identity or has helped shape their identity. If you would like to be featured in this project, share a picture of yourself and how you choose to identify using the hashtag #RUIDProject on Instagram or contact us via email.
My name is Kierra Monique Pean and I am the daughter of two Haitian immigrant parents. I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and was in the Catholic school system for the entirety of my elementary, middle and high school careers. I was used to being one of the few, if not the only person of color in my classes. It was never something that bothered me, but I was aware that I was different from the majority of my school, and sometimes people found a need to make that painfully clear. I was often called an “Oreo” and any other name that conveyed surprise that I did not act like the stereotyped image that some people associate with black people. Of course I had experienced diversity in other aspects of my life, with my family being Haitian and all, but it was nothing compared to the diversity that I am currently experiencing at Rutgers.
Just last year, as I searched for universities that I was interested in applying to, I narrowed my choices to top research schools that accepted people from all walks of life. In the end it was Rutgers that I was accepted to and eventually decided to attend. The beginning of my inclusion in the diverse atmosphere was my invitation to the Paul Robeson Leadership Institute. The institute is specifically for historically underrepresented first-generation college students as part of the new RU-1st initiative at Rutgers. During the institute, my peers and I went through a rigorous three week session that included workshops, classes, and informational trips that educated me on different topics ranging from Black and Latino history to financial literacy. I was taught things that my parents could not tell me because they had never been to college, and taught things that I did not know to look for because I had never been exposed to them. Through the Paul Robeson Leadership Institute I became an ambassador, and I currently hold the responsibility of helping represent and promote the institute.
Since the beginning of the year, I have come in contact with people from all over the world who I have had the pleasure of becoming friends as well as others who have been kind enough to share their cultures with me. No one has commented on my differences because I am simply accepted here. The Rutgers atmosphere has led me to finally appreciate who I am. I’ve joined clubs like the Black Student Union, stayed involved in the Paul Robeson Institute, and go out to as many cultural events as I can. Of course that does not mean that Rutgers is a perfect place, but the openness-and-inclusion-based atmosphere here has helped smooth my transition into college. I can now focus on my academics, and all of my strengths, instead of feeling self conscious about being the only person who looks or acts like me.