Wednesday, October 7, 2020

JHU’s Black Student Union: An Event to Remember

Student blogger, Brandy Darling (HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21) writes about her experience with joining a new club and attending an outside event with them. Her attendance led to an expanded network and enhanced her experience at SAIS.

The transition from the HNC to SAIS DC paired with the challenges of a virtual environment
led me to find new ways to interact with students at SAIS. The best method? Join clubs! There are a bunch to choose from: career clubs, regional clubs, social clubs, and more. The main club I am associated with is the Black Student Union (BSU) at SAIS DC. As a new club, I have attended amazing events hosted and cohosted by BSU, such as a webinar targeting mental health, featuring a calming meditation session. I also enjoy the newsletters sent by BSU, which feature news updates, upcoming events, and great career opportunities. 

One event in particular left a lasting impression on me. With the help of SAIS and BSU, I attended The International Association of Black Professionals in International Affairs’ (BPIA) Diversity in International Affairs Virtual Conference and Career Fair. BPIA is a non-profit membership association that “aims to develop and expand professional opportunities for African-Americans and members of the African Diaspora”. I spent the day virtually with over 500 other professionals and scholars via a unique conference software. I explored panels on topics of international development and multilateral organizations, participated in career fair booths to engage with hiring managers, and the best part: the networking session. BPIA counted “over 250 connections made through the 1-on-1 speed networking feature”.

Before I boast about the networking session, I should say that this was one of the most inspiring conferences I have ever been to. I came into the conference comfortable because I knew other students from BSU were also attending, so I didn’t feel like I was alone. I also knew that this conference was made to “connect diverse talent to international opportunities” so I took this as the time to meet people who were doing what I aspire to do. I also made it a goal to branch out and see what the conference had to offer. The best way of doing that was by meeting people through the networking session. I used this conference feature to do a few rounds of speed networking, and met an undergraduate student who I gave advice to about choosing a graduate program. I also met a mid-career professional looking to move into a more security-focused international role. Most importantly, I met a SAIS alumna! She was very eager to hear updates about SAIS and I was excited to learn about her journey after SAIS. By the end of the conference, I made lasting connections and learned about opportunities from various companies of interest.

Overall, it was nice to attend such an awe-inspiring event with the Black Student Union at SAIS. I applaud BSU leadership for all their hard work in creating a new organization and congratulate them on all that they have accomplished in such a short amount of time. Though I only highlighted one opportunity given by BSU, there are many more examples of how BSU and other clubs across campus are taking this virtual environment by storm. The collaboration between clubs alone is a great way to meet people from all corners of SAIS. I look forward to making more connections with current students, professors and many more alumni!

Written by Brandy Darling, HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21.