LEAD Expands to Fill Pride Shop Vacancy

Joseph Alderman, News Editor

The vacant spot once occupied by The Pride Shop will soon be home to a new Office of Inclusion, sponsored by LEAD.

Established to provide skill-building opportunities to students, the student leadership group Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) has been growing at Texas A&M University – Commerce since its inception. Director Danielle Davis expressed the significance of student involvement in the growth and development of LEAD.

“LEAD was started in 2011, and it was one of those things that, students went to our Dean of Students’ office and said ‘we need more leadership opportunities,’” David said.  “They said we had summer leadership summit, which was one of our older programs, and they said no, that’s not enough. And so, starting off with a small department of just one person, it’s gotten to the point where the vision is how do we prepare our students for that next level, how do we make them become well rounded. “

Similarly, the Office of Inclusion, which will be located on the first floor of the Sam Rayburn Student Center, also originated from the requests of students.

“The new space, same thing, very similar topic, about a year ago students said leadership is good, we’re happy with other things, but what about for our more marginalized or minority students,” Davis said. “And minority students has very little to do with just ethnicity, we’re talking about ethnicity but also our LGBT students and also our women students. There’s no space for us.”

Where the primary goal of LEAD was to prepare students for the different environments and types of people they will be working with in their professional careers, the Office of Inclusion has widened their focus to also include providing students with a sense of significance while they’re still here.

“[We’re] looking at how do we incorporate and make those students feel valued and encourage them,” Davis said. “It looks very different for different populations of students, and so we’re recognizing that and trying to make sure they feel needed and valued and have that we have programming made specifically for those populations of students.”

At this stage, the Office of Inclusion is still being set up, with furnishing efforts and hiring of staff currently being conducted by a committee of students and staff.

“So, it’s a really exciting space that we’re in right now, I am actually doing the decorating for it, so picking like the furnishings, looking at the space,” Davis said. “We’re also in the process of hiring an associate director for the space and for the Office of Inclusion. We have the position up, and we’re in the process of hiring that and doing interviews and so on and so forth.”

Davis and the rest of LEAD were pleased to see almost universal support for the Office of Inclusion from faculty, staff and students, as well as numerous offers for help from around the university.

“That was the important part, and kind of interesting for us, is that we’ve had support from the top-down from the beginning of it, and I think it speaks volumes about our institution being very student friendly and student centered,” Davis said.

Davis is planning for opening at the beginning of the 2015 fall semester.

“It will be ready in August of this year, which is right around the corner so we’re really excited about that with things rocking and rolling,” Davis said. “We’ll definitely have some type of ribbon cutting ceremony or some ceremony when students get back in August.”