New director to launch GSA club

By Kris Genther
September 11, 2008

If you ask Melissa Waters, the new director of Student Diversity Initiatives at Cabrini College, how she found Cabrini she will tell you was an accident, but she is quick to point out that it has been the most “phenomenal” thing ever to happen to her.

She has been tasked with building an organization in support of minority, gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students. This is a tall order for anyone, but Waters says she does it because she doesn’t want, “anyone to slip through the cracks,” a very heroic response.

Waters has been working her entire adult life to further awareness of these issues which have now made their way onto Cabrini’s campus. She has worked as a coordinator for a youth HIV awareness campaign, helped to organize a domestic violence campaign and even served as an HIV tester. She does all of this because, as she says, “we need to stop fooling ourselves.”

In coming to Cabrini she has brought a spark which can be felt as soon as you enter her room, as the walls are covered with hand- painted murals by Cabrini students. She takes her job seriously and will never say no to a student in need, no matter what the issue may be.

Waters comes to Cabrini with a drive matched only by her endless enthusiasm for the job, when asked what her goals for the year are she will tell you that it is up to the students. It is her belief that the students should dictate the changes that need to be made, and that she should simply be a vessel by which they can accomplish their goals.

“I like to get people together,” Waters said, and she plans to do just that. Some of her plans for the year include multi-cultural book clubs to generate awareness while fostering a healthy learning environment. She plans on using media and guest speakers to foster awareness and nurture a culture of openness and unity.

Another approach she plans on taking is utilizing student representatives to get out and educate people on diversity because, as Waters believes, “diversity is about who we are,” and what better way to teach diversity than to go straight to the source, our peers.

The students are not the only ones who would be getting out and meeting people, Waters is a firm believer in making herself known. She believes that by the end of the year, “every student should know who I am.”

This is not a stretch for Waters; she is a firm believer in having an open door policy. People are constantly walking into her room already, yet she has only been here for a few weeks.

It is not just the students who are getting to know her either, she is becoming known throughout the faculty circle as well. She has come to Cabrini not only to foster openness and awareness but to encourage dialogue and communication amongst all students and faculty.

She is going about this by talking with the many groups and organizations already active at Cabrini, such as the athletic department and the history department. By bringing the faculty members into the circle as well, Waters is completing the circle that she has drawn in her mind.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about Waters is her commitment to the students, she is willing to go far beyond her job description to accommodate the needs of students who seek her counsel, be it appealing to the higher ups or simply talking, because as she puts it, “if you just need to talk, I can do that too.”

Waters knows all of this will take time but she is ready for the long haul, acknowledging that, “it’s a process,” and if anyone has the patience for such a task it is Melissa Waters, doing her job not for the money but, “because you have to love what you do.”

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Kris Genther

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