By: Oriel Romano & Ida Ansell
In Fall 2015, a group of Loyola University New Orleans graduate counseling students met to discuss their program in light of demands the Black Student Union made to the University. The group of students met regularly to identify programmatic shortcomings and discuss potential solutions. They named this group “Students Addressing Race and Privilege” (SARP). SARP presented faculty with a list of these solutions that included diversifying the curriculum and student body while providing supplemental multicultural training.They feared graduating without gaining a deeper understanding of their own racial beliefs and biases. SARP desired an environment that allowed for exploration of their racial identities in depth. As a result, Callie Millington, one of SARP’s original founding members, secured funding from Loyola University New Orleans’ Department of Diversity and Inclusion. These funds were used to hire Dr. Marva Lewis, a professor in the Tulane School of Social Work and expert on race relations, to facilitate a racial identity process group for counseling students.
Throughout the course of six intense, emotional, and illuminating weeks, group participants met to explore their racial identity development. Students participated in role plays and brainstormed ways to break the cycle of systematic and institutionalized racism and oppression. Group participants considered the group so transformative that they set SARP goals for the upcoming year. Of these goals, the primary focus was to make the process group a mandatory part of their curriculum. As a result, SARP secured funding to continue the process group with an outside facilitator and now leads a section of the new student orientation for counseling students that invites newcomers to begin examining their own ideas around race and privilege.
SARP members have accomplished much more than their initial goals. In the upcoming academic year, SARP’s past leaders, Oriel Romano and Ida Ansell, helped new leaders set additional goals that include implementing panel discussions and trainings on LGBTQIA+, Louisiana’s Indigenous populations, and women’s issues for Loyola University New Orleans counseling students. In addition, SARP leaders hope to plan, fund, and implement a racial identity process group for the university’s faculty.
Through small grants, Romano and Ansell secured funds that allowed for a year-long research study aimed to measure the impact of a racial identity process group on Loyola University New Orleans’ graduate counseling students. Through continued partnership with facilitators from Tulane University School of Social Work and funding, Romano and Ansell plan to expand this study to multiple universities and counseling programs throughout Louisiana and the United States.
From left to right: Oriel Romano & Ida Ansell pictured with Vinetta Frie (LCA president) after receiving the Graduate Student Award at the Louisiana Counseling Association Conference for their development of Students Addressing Race and Privilege (SARP) at Loyola University New Orleans, research efforts and receipts of grant funding, commitment to multicultural issues, and overall dedication to their profession.