What Rivalries? Bowdoin Hosts Tri-College Black Student Summit

By Lily Echeverria ’26
About seventy-five students from Bowdoin, Bates, and Colby recently convened on Bowdoin's campus for a day of panels, workshops, and community.
A group photo at the end of the all-day summit
A group photo at the all-day summit.

On Saturday, February 10, students, staff, and faculty gathered at the newly upgraded Ladd House for what is believed to be the first Black Student Summit (BSS) involving all three schools. The schedule for the day-long initiative was filled with a range of activities, including a talk from Bates President Garry Jenkins.

The event was organized by Eduardo Pazos, Bowdoin’s assistant dean for student affairs and the director of multicultural student life, along with his Bates and Colby counterparts, Tonya Bailey-Curry and Kimberly Walton-Trajkovski, respectively.

The goal of this summit was to bring together Black students from the three colleges and create community.

“We’ve heard from Black students over the years that they have a desire to be in solidarity and make connections with other Black college students,” Pazos said. “We thought, ‘Among our three colleges, why not bring our students together?’”

Of the seventy-five students that signed up from all of the schools, thirty-two were from Bowdoin. Jickinson Louis ’26 attended, saying he was excited to meet other Black students attending liberal arts colleges in Maine. 

“After meeting these students, I found it incredible how dedicated they are to fostering safe and inclusive environments for Black students on their campuses amid juggling a rigorous academic course load,” he said. “Prior to this, I’ve met a few Black students from other NESCACs and everyone has been committed to ensuring that their colleges are aware of the many issues that persist for them at predominantly white institutions.”

Micheka Fenelon ’24, co-president of Bowdoin's Black Student Union (BSU), said the summit "was eventful, with a good turnout. I hope it becomes an annual initiative."

One of the best outcomes of the day for her was the network the students formed (they're all on a group chat now), and learning about the campus experiences of Bates and Colby students. "It was good to hear about the common challenges we’re all facing," she said. "Sometimes they can only feel like Bowdoin problems, but at Colby and Bates, they're having these shared problems, as well."

President Garry Jenkins
Bates President Garry Jenkins during the Q&A.

Jenkins’s discussion in the late afternoon was well-attended and conversational. He is the first openly gay Black man to be president at Bates, and acknowledged the work he has done there to make diversity and inclusion a priority.

“Believe me, the word 'belonging' comes up a lot. We’re hearing it on college campuses across the country. One thing I try to remind students often is that you are all here because we chose you. So it’s our responsibility to increase that level of belongingness,” he said. “But you already belong.”

Jenkins referenced the importance of Black joy in general, but stressed in particular how critical it was to bring that joy into higher education.

“I think it is about enjoying the little moments when being our authentic selves,” he said. “I think it’s about embracing our artistry and innovation, and the positivity of our culture... Black joy is a part of self-care and positive nourishment.”

This was something Pazos had in mind when preparing the event with Bailey-Curry and Walton-Trajkovski. He hopes the realization of this goal was demonstrated through the spontaneous moments of happiness throughout the day.

“One [specific moment] was when a lot of students were downstairs in the basement line-dancing, and you could just hear the roaring laughter all the way upstairs,” he said. “To me, joy has to be one of the reasons why we do this. Black joy has to be the reason we do it.”

The students from all three colleges promised to include one another at upcoming campus events celebrating Black joy, Fenelon said, like Bowdoin's Ebony Ball and Bates' Africana Fashion Show.

In addition to the festivity, the day included three more serious workshops on preventing burnout, career exploration, and personal finance and budgeting. Pazos said he consistently hears from students that they want to learn more about these topics.

“It’s really important to me that all of our students are well connected with the career exploration and development office,” he said. “And I care deeply about financial literacy for all of our students, specifically for students of underrepresented backgrounds who are often underserved by financial institutions.”