In 2019, the “BU COM Diversity and Inclusion Network” Facebook group officially came to fruition – a new name and a new face to the existing group. This time around, they placed the goal of celebrating and supporting the diversity of those in the COM community in the title. To this day, there are over 500 members in the group. Alumni, students, or truly anyone involved with COM is encouraged to join.
This group was founded and has been led by Professor Ann Donohue, an associate professor of journalism. However, students and alumni also play a critical role in facilitating the group.
Ermolade Jean-Simon (CAS ‘98, COM ‘15) is the content writer for the group, and a key player in its functioning today. Jean-Simon is also a Committee Member of the DEI COM committee and the Marketing and Events Specialist for the Summer Journalism Academy.
After graduating as a sociology major in 1998, Jean-Simon came back years later to receive her master’s in public relations. During her time at COM, she was the only Black PR student in her classes and was left in a state of shock, which she says made it difficult to connect with her peers.
“It felt really isolated; I felt isolated,” Jean-Simon said.
Jean-Simon noticed this was an issue during her undergraduate years in the 90’s. When she found it was still prevalent nearly 20 years later, she decided to talk to COM’s Dean at the time, Thomas Fiedler, about the problem.
When the Facebook group originally started in 2015, there was not a lot of action or conversation happening. The conversations were short, and members refused to talk about the elephant in the room. This was the point where Jean-Simon stepped in for help.
“[You] don’t want to talk about the elephant in the room because you don’t want to damage your career and you’re trying to build your network,” she said. “I’m the total opposite, because I think that once you talk about the elephant in the room, then there’s a lot. You can break the ice and actually acknowledge that [issue] and move forward.”
While Jean-Simon assists with the group, there is no specific strategy she keeps in mind regarding the content posted. Jean-Simon uses Google Alerts and Twitter to collect potential content. Oftentimes, she shares personal stories with members, discussing something that happened during her day in hopes that someone can relate to her.
No one is specifically assigned to help with this task of posting specific content. Oftentimes, Jean-Simon takes a back seat and encourages others to contribute.
“Even if you’re up or down, share a gif or a comment. The content is free-flowing,” Jean-Simon said.
The group’s overall purpose and long term goal is to encourage members to have more authentic conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion, all while fostering new connections. The next phase is creating affinity groups for members as a means to create additional room for connection.
“I hope that [this group] will be the foundation. And that it gives people the ability to come back and remember who they are,” Jean-Simon said.
Jean-Simon saw an opportunity to make a difference at COM. She wants students to shed the mindset of being in ‘presentation mode’ all the time. With this group, she has the opportunity to tell her own story and encourage students to embrace their own; there is no need to put on a front.
“I really want it to be focused on celebrating people from different backgrounds, but also be a support system because it was what I felt I needed at BU,” Jean-Simon said.
Anna Pham, Staff Writer
Anna Pham is a senior (May ‘21) studying public relations with minors in philosophy and innovation & entrepreneurship. Growing up in Silicon Valley has pushed Anna to love innovation and technology. Upon graduating, she hopes to work with a large tech company or tech startup. In her free time, Anna can be found traveling the world, graphic designing, or working on a new passion project. Her goal is to one day start her own company and visit all the U.S. National Parks!