Rising senior Raymond Wos Jr. (he/him/his) from Gloucester County, NJ, is a subject-matter history major and double minor in both international studies and political science, and he’s also heavily involved with the inner workings of campus as a leader of change. Today he will share with us his personal journey and contributions to the University community.
At what point did you become comfortable with your sexuality and disability both with yourself and expressing it to other people?
For my disability, I was diagnosed at the age of 6 and then that was with my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Then I came out as bisexual, being comfortable with it and couldn’t hold it in to myself around my second year in community college so I was probably 18 or 19 years old at the time. I was thinking I feel comfortable with myself and realizing that I needed to be comfortable with these identities regardless and there’s nothing wrong or imperfect about me, it’s just that I know I am the best version I can possibly be and I can be proud of my identities without any criticism or any backlash from these issues.
What has Rowan done to make you feel accepted as part of the LGBQTIA+ community on campus and what gave you the courage to give back to the Rowan community?
As an individual, realizing how much empowerment and power I have on this campus, I realized as someone who’s a part of it but also realizing there’s so many more identities that need to be represented through SGA (Student Government Association) and many other facets I’m involved with. It’s just shown the amount this institution will give, but there’s always room for improvement regardless. However, there’s times where I’m in these roles to make change and I was able to help create legislation throughout the year. One of them, this past spring, I had written a piece of a resolution for transgender rights, acknowledgement, and more condensed stuff on our campus through the wellness center and many other facets of the community. With everything that’s happened within the trans community today outside of Rowan, it just shows that we need to pay more attention to these issues. Since we are not really, this is the first to take a course of action that I’ve done with PRISM and so forth to make this thing happen and it did pass. We’re now working together collaboratively with several offices in particular. Right now at the moment, with the Wellness Center we’re making sure they have fantastic resources for our trans community on this campus.
What drew you to get involved with Rowan’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and can you share what you have accomplished in your role as AVP?
My time in the role as Assistant Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, I have completed a lot during my time. I’ve written at least 3 to 4 different resolutions that’s helped many facets of the Disabled community, mental health, and LGBTQIA+ community this past year and made sure there was an emphasis on the importance that these communities need to be represented on this campus and making sure of it. I’ve helped write responses to things that have happened within our community through the backlash that’s happened at Holly Point and even on Twitter where people posted derogatory terms. My well known accomplishment that I’m really proud of is getting a Rowan Announcer created for Judy Heumann, who’s an internationally recognized Disability Rights advocate and leader throughout this nation. She recently passed in March and I got that settled by writing articles and blogs that were published in the campus newspaper, The Whit and DEI blog about it so there’s a lot of work I’ve gotten done.
There are a lot of accomplishments that have happened throughout the academic year. However, I’ve also attended a lot of cultural events, I’ve worked with The BSU (Black Student Union) and NAACP to try and support the local community around me within these facets, within the Division of DEI. But most importantly I do work in the office of Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution office with Tara Ferrucci and Dominique Pierson who are in charge of the facilities over there. They’re absolutely amazing people. Just gaining more knowledge for their office and working collaboratively with them, even super close with them. Besides that I’m involved within the facet of the Division of DEI, I’m involved in 8 committees they have on campus related to DEI. I’m so embedded into it I understand where the Division is leading to but also how I can help them and give the student perspective as much as possible. I’m proud that I’m able to give that and have faculty, staff, students, and many other supporters understand what I do and how much I care from the student body perspective and how much change I want to see, but also for future generations to realize it’s a lot to consider. But it needed to be done for us.
What moments at Rowan gave you the confidence to up such a large role in representing the LGBQTIA+ community?
The reason why is because it’s not for me personally, it’s not represented as a big facet that I was hoping for. Since I had my predecessor, Alex Butler, they were a part of the LGBTQIA+ community as well. I felt a motivation– a very high interest in making a change, but also being a part of a community and realizing I do have a voice as well as seeing the facets of the community, realizing as a person in the community and as an ally, there are so many problems and issues that are not being mentioned in and out of our institution and how we’re going to fix them. I realized I can make a change, not just within the LGBTQIA+ community, but so many other communities that I am not a part of but also within my own disabled identities as well because I feel like they’re left out of the conversation. In addition, neurodiversity is a part of it as well that is missing in these conversations. I just don’t see these issues through my queer and disabled perspective. All these lenses of identities have different facets and need to be represented on campus. The role has gotten bigger and the perception of it has gotten bigger and people may not realize it.
What challenges have you had to navigate through your time here as an undergraduate student here that other students might not have had to?
For me personally, I have navigated here at Rowan through different challenges. I was a transfer and commuter student here on this campus and it was a very different environment. I transferred the semester that COVID happened and I was here probably two and half to three months in person then COVID hit, then schools shutdown, spring break was two weeks that got extended. From there I learned online and everything else. We went to a universal design type of platform like Zoom and WebEx and learning that way was very different in the beginning, but now it’s a tool that utilizes a lot more than I was expecting to use– I’m grateful I was able to use it. But it’s always been a challenge, also being a student who doesn’t share a lot sometimes. Also, now becoming more comfortable and being empowered, I was able to represent myself on this campus being a transfer from a community college and a commuter. The other facets of my identity I represent on this campus, I have decided to make myself a powerful voice and I think a lot of people have seen that within the last year and a half through every facet of this University.
Are there certain goals that you have set out to achieve whether it’s spreading acceptance or reforming previously held views at the university level that you have achieved?
Some of the things that I personally have achieved during my time here, I can definitely tell you one of my goals is intersectionality which is something that is so important in realizing that we do have a sense of community. It’s also that we need to realize our individuality and we do have a sense of purpose, but also we’re able to have different identities but can relate to each other through this intersectionality. We realize we can share the same experiences but some of us might have it easier than others as expected. I think that’s a philosophy the position needs to have and realize, yes, I can be a person who is a cis white man that is bisexual and disabled and realize I face challenges within two identities, but being a cis white man isn’t a challenge because there’s so many benefits I get from society. But the other identities that I can’t because of how things are structured and how things are happening in our society.
Another one was mental health within DEI. I have passed a legislation resolution to get mental health resources to our campus student website, Canvas, hopefully that’s being implemented soon. Another legislation resolution that I’ve passed again that I have mentioned previously was the transgender awareness legislation and getting the Wellness Center to be more accepting and being open and having it be more accessible.
Another thing I was trying to hit upon was writing opinion pieces and stuff like that within other communities like BIPOC, Neurodiversity, within Disabled, within LGBTQIA+ and I felt like we have gotten there by expanding with our Rowan DEI blog which is absolutely amazing. I highly encourage everyone to check it out, it’s very nice.
A new goal that I was about to start on this campus and it might transition to our next AVP of DEI will be creating a Disability Student Union. From all the conversations and what I’ve been seeing, the empowerment from other communities being seen on campus has been absolutely empowering. It gave power to those who had a voice and gave it and became a force that was not to be reckoned with and being able to make an important change on this campus. But now, since seeing that having an organization called a Disability Student Union in the near future will be a huge benefit to this institution to make change. I think that is something we should look forward to and hopefully will be seeing in the near future. Those are some of my initiatives but there are many more besides that.
Are there specific moments that stand out to you that show the growth within the community at Rowan?
Seeing people becoming more of a family and realizing we’re coming and growing as individuals, but also as people within our society. Also within our clubs and organizations a lot of them are becoming more closely knit and trying to work on my collaboration ideas and working together– it’s a start. Plus we’ve been out of the pandemic and been fully back into school, full fledged with all these activities and everything else for about a year or two now. We’re still rebuilding that stage up again. I think we’ll need a few more years to do it, but I think the communities, the sense of belonging, and what we’re trying to bring to Rowan, seeing the potential next year is gonna be really good. We’re going in the right direction.
Are you satisfied with the changes you’ve helped create at Rowan and what would you like the next crop of students to do to carry on your work here?
For the legacy I left is definitely having empathy for others, but also having empathy that happened on this campus where we need to have a shared responsibility to care for one another and also empower each other. To give each other the power to make change and evolve as a whole and work collaboratively with SGA, with all these various organizations to really make change and challenge the administration to do better, but also to make them more knowledgeable on issues that we’re facing at this time. For the next crop of students, I want them to realize that empathy will go far and wide, showing kindness to others will take a great deal of responsibility for these roles and of these executives for what we’re trying to do for the future. Students should realize just overall empathy, love, and kindness will always take you far in what you do in these careers.
Can you talk about your next steps after you graduate?
After I graduate I want to become a high school history teacher, somewhere locally or somewhere within the state of New Jersey to work with students in history. To show them what the potential of history is, but also destigmatizing history, showing there is so much more potential in history, what is undiscovered, and showing what we learn in the classroom is not always true. We have to challenge what writers have perceived and what has been written by the victors. We need to do better and realize there’s other historical information out there, many more historians have better writing and so forth like that. In the near future, after I’m done teaching for a few years, I want to come back to Rowan and do a double master’s of arts program in Special Education and the Diversity and Inclusion program as well. Having those two facets of programs combined together and working on it, I will have the potential to grow as a self-advocate, an advocate, and an activist, and something bigger within the state or locally. That’s my goal for the future.
After your experience with Rowan, after your experience with community college, how has your education experience impacted how you will teach?
What I have learned during my time here and my time at community college is that if you have something you have your mind to and you put it to it and as someone who’s going into a teaching career, you’re gonna be able to have the same determination and the same energy you want to bring into the classroom. You want to make an impact on these students to be engaged and learn the material you’re teaching them, but go beyond that and have more of a special interest in topics in history. But even more, realizing the importance of having humanities and history in our society to still exist. Where today it’s falling apart in some of the different states, we’re losing humanities, music, and sports throughout public education. We need to refocus our energy throughout the nation to make sure we bring back humanities and I want people to realize they’re equally as important as the STEM fields.
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Written by Thomas Ubelhoer, rising junior political science and international studies double major