Breaking Down Barriers on Campus
For Ashley Ramcharan ’20, what began as a late night conversation with friends about being a racial minority on campus turned into a 10-week long research project.
“I used to talk to my friends all the time about the experience of being a minority,” she said. “As a person of color, it’s not always easy to transition to an institution like Hamilton. It affects everything that I do—from the way I feel to my interactions with others on campus.”
In these conversations, Ramcharan noticed that she wasn’t alone in her experience. “That face to face communication was really important to me because I noticed similarities tying together all these experiences. Even though everybody’s life and individual identity is different, there’s still a thread that ties all of our experiences together.”
She followed that thread all the way to her Emerson research project, titled “Studying the Transition to College for People of Color.” Ramcharan is working with Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas.
For her research, Ramcharan is interviewing and surveying students on campus to explore the college transition experience for students of color.
Major: Sociology/Africana Studies
Hometown: Schenectady, NY
High School: Schenectady High School
“My interviews involve everyone,” she said. “I’ve been talking to students of color, white students, opportunity students, non-opportunity students, and students of all different genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I want to get a feel for the entire campus experience.”
Ramacharan’s goal is to understand why people of color have a harder time adjusting to campus and navigating the social scene—and what she can do about it.
“I’m hoping to get a plan of action for bridging the divide on campus. I want to learn how we can best provide a system of support for students of color on campus and give them an outlet to express their feelings or frustrations,” she said.
Before she started her first year at Hamilton, Ramcharan spent several weeks on campus for the opportunity program HEOP. “I’m so grateful for the resources it gave me and how it helped me come out of my shell. It really made me reflect on how lucky I was to come through this program and how there are a lot of disadvantaged students that didn’t have that support.”
As a sociology and Africana studies double major, Ramcharan has always been deeply involved in the study of race and ethnicity. “Race is definitely a sensitive subject, but it’s such a huge part of my identity and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud of where I come from and I think it’s more important than ever that we share those experiences with each other and with others.”