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USM’s New Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement Eager to Help Underserved Students Excel

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 19:50pm | By: Van Arnold

Jaborius BallJaborius Ball came bouncing into his new position two months ago within the office of Student Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and has been on a determined roll ever since.

Ball, a native of Foxworth, Miss., was named the University’s new Director of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement in January after previously serving as Coordinator of African-American Student Affairs at the University of Arizona.

To say he is appreciative of this new challenge is a bit like saying a basketball is round.

“Being intentional, I was seeking an opportunity to serve students back in my home state,” said Ball. “I’ve had the good fortune of working in the State of Michigan and State of Arizona, but never in the state that made me who I am today. So, I wanted to do just that.”

As part of its ongoing mission, USM’s Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement promotes the holistic development of multicultural students through leadership development, educational programming and collaboration with University departments. The office strives to increase recruitment and retention of multicultural students by creating a strong sense of campus community and assisting students in becoming successful graduates.

“Mr. Ball is an outstanding addition to the Division of Student Affairs and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our campus. We are very excited to have him as part of our team as we strive to develop healthy, connected, learning focused students and communities,” said Dr. Dee Dee Anderson, Vice President for Student Affairs at USM.

Ball has already outlined some specific objectives for the office moving forward:

· Ensure that all facets of USM – students, organizations and communities – are engaged in diversity and inclusiveness

· Educate the campus-at-large with training on inclusivity and diversity, diversifying faculty and staff, representation, social justice, microaggressions and implicit bias

· Cross-campus and community collaboration in creating a more inclusive campus climate

· Support historically underserved student communities to improve their experiences and success at a PWI (Predominantly White Institution)

Ball earned his undergraduate degree in secondary education social studies and geography comprehensive from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) in 2015. Three years later he completed his master’s degree in educational leadership higher education student affairs at Eastern Michigan.

He stayed on at his alma mater to become EMU Opportunity Program Assistant before moving on to his role in Student Affairs at Arizona.

Ball’s USM office staff includes two professional staff members, Tegi Jenkins-Rimmer and Nneka Ayozie; and graduate assistants Roshanna Stalling and Stepfon Green. Amyah Banin serves in the office as a student worker.

Given the volatile social climate that has prevailed in the U.S. over the past several years, Ball emphasizes the importance of multicultural engagement. Never more so than on the campuses of predominantly white institutions of higher learning.

“In lieu of the racially charged incidents that occurred in the last year, institutions have gone above and beyond to change the climate of their campuses,” he said. “Campuses are reflective of the communities surrounding them and with the push to support marginalized communities, it is challenging universities to re-examine their rhetoric and practices.”

Ball credits his grandparents for paving the way toward his academic achievements and professional development. Neither graduated from high school, but Ball says they encouraged family members to seek higher education opportunities.

“Coming from a small town in Mississippi, I did not grow up with a lot; however, my family embedded the importance of education in me at an early age,” said Ball. “My grandmother used to say, ‘Get your lesson, because they can’t take away what you have up here (head)’”.

Ball highlights a moment from his time as a graduate student at Eastern Michigan to illustrate his passion for helping students reach their full potential. The hallmark occurred while he served in the EMU Opportunity Program, designed to help students who did not perform their best in high school make a smooth transition into college life.

He noted that one student in particular, with whom he had met weekly as her academic coach, expressed at the program’s end-of-year celebration: ‘I want to be the first person in my family to graduate from college, and I believe I can because Jaborius said I could.’

Ball said the declaration brought him to tears. “I vowed on that day that at any point in my professional career, I would not take on any position if it didn’t feel like that situation, and ironically, that one moment brought me home to Mississippi.”

To learn more about USM’s Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, call 601.266.5724 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/student-affairs/office-inclusion-multicultural-engagement.php