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Destler Dodge

New beginnings are not easy, but for groups and organizations across campus, change is needed to keep their programs and services relevant. The AALANA Collegiate Association (ACA), a Major Student Organization (MSO) that represents the African American, Latin American and Native American (AALANA) populations of RIT, recently rebranded itself in order to better serve and involve the minority students on campus.

Spurred on by the arrival of a new e-board that ACA Publicity Director Lena Laque-Almond describes as "motivated and passionate," recent changes were made to regain the trust of those who make up the ACA and to improve the MSO's standing with other clubs and faculty. The ACA has a new president, a new adviser and the previously mentioned new e-board. They have also redesigned their logo and hope to alter their image on RIT's campus. The ACA's mission has always been to give a voice to students and faculty that identify with AALANA backgrounds, but the changes that the organization is making allow it to better serve and involve the community that they represent. "The mission for AALANA is really just to have a vision for what minorities on campus can achieve," explains Laque-Almond. By providing an outlet for those in the AALANA community to express the issues and obstacles they face and by assembling a dynamic group of passionate leaders, the ACA hopes that it can obtain more visibility and that, as a result, RIT will assist in meeting its needs.

The ACA's event Wake Up Wednesday was held on October 8; it was announced with provocative posters that simply read, "You've been sleeping on us," and allowed people to vote on which of two new logos they preferred. The event was multi-faceted—it displayed some of the ACA's changes, brought attention to the group and directly involved people in the organization. Laque-Almond considered the event successful.

Laque-Almond also discussed the ACA's interest in taking their efforts off campus, though she reinforced the idea that the ACA's "first priority is…on-campus students." It's important, she says, to support AALANA students transitioning to RIT. "A lot of people come from a place that is very different, and then they come onto a college campus." By fostering a sense of community with events like Wake Up Wednesday, the "Academic Challenge and the annual Welcome Back Bonanza, the group creates a support system that is both academic and social.

The organization is still in the process of changing, but hopes that its transformation will prove to be beneficial to the AALANA community in the long run. It hopes to be seen as an asset and a voice to AALANA students that represents each group equally and makes their grievances heard. In the future, the ACA hopes to continue to host events that unite the community and allow people to express their pride in their cultures; by doing this, they hope to increase RIT's AALANA retention rates.

Though the changes have only just begun, they show promise for a group that many previously ignored or, as Laque-Almond says, thought was simply a club rather than an MSO. By increasing the visibility of the ACA and uniting the entire RIT campus around the celebration of AALANA's contribution to the college, the changes represent a fresh start for the group that will bring attention to the many diverse groups that call RIT home and will support their academic, cultural and social experiences at the school.