Changes coming to Chatham RISE program for fall 2022


Students and their families attend the 2021 RISE Welcome Lunch. Photo Credit: Phil Pavely

Jade Lombardo

Chatham University student Shamin Mason ‘13 created in 2012 RISE (Retain. Involve. Strengthen. Excel.), a program that focuses on the success of students of color at Chatham. With the help of the Office of Student Affairs, this program will be expanding next academic year to offer more students of color a support network and a sense of community.

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) announced earlier this semester the changes that will be implemented for fall 2022. Beginning next semester, RISE will shift from being a year-long mentoring program to an immersive weekend retreat. 

“We’ve gotten so big as a program that we actually can’t sustain the current model, so that’s always a good reason to have to change the current format of something. I never want to have to turn down a student of color just because we don’t have enough mentors,” said Juan Mendizabal, associate director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

The goal of these changes is to incorporate the idea that mentorship is not just a series of one-on-one meetings and, instead, create an all-inclusive, community-based experience spanning beyond the RISE retreat itself. 

The retreat will take place Sept. 9-11, 2022 on Chatham’s Shadyside campus. Participants can include any students of color who will be in their first or second year at Chatham, and any students of color in their third year or beyond can work as a mentor. 

Registration will open on April 1, 2022. RISE retreat registrations will close on Sept. 2, 2022, leaving enough time for new students to hear about it after they arrive on campus in August. Students can register at the link under the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion tab on Chatham’s website. 

RISE mentor Ashanti Lopez ‘24 said being a RISE mentee has been a positive experience. 

“RISE was very helpful and communicative. They were the ones that taught me how to use the transportation in Pittsburgh and the different areas of the city. They suggested several hair salons that work for my hair texture and places I should not go in regard to my safety and comfort,” Lopez said. “It was really easy to meet people who I felt like understood my worries and troubles.”

Mendizabal describes the RISE retreat as an experience that will be “authentic, joyful and community oriented.” It will consist of group sessions where mentees and mentors can build connections. There also will be self-care sessions – including yoga, mindfulness and meditation – real-talk sessions to help students who are new to the Pittsburgh area. 

“I would definitely say that joining the RISE program helped me build a network on campus,” Ana Harouse ‘25, a 2021 RISE participant said. “Through RISE, I had the opportunity to meet Kundhavaidevi [Balamurugan], the co-president of the Asian Student Association. Without the RISE orientation, I do not think I would have restarted the ASA with her.”

While there is no mentoring commitment beyond the retreat, ODEI will provide monthly opportunities for mentors and mentees to reconnect through BIPOC family dinners and other events.

“To know you’re not alone, that to me is the most important outcome of this retreat, and I think that will really change the game for students of color at the university,” Mendizabal said. 

Any future questions regarding the RISE program can be directed to Mendizabal at [email protected]