Black faculty, staff create an environment of support


Courtesy of Traci Royster

App State’s Black Faculty and Staff Association has roughly 25 active members, working with Black fraternities and the Black Student Association to sponsor events.

Hollie Moore, Associate News Editor

“Representation matters” is the mantra for a group dedicated to support for all Black people on campus; students, faculty and staff alike.

The Black Faculty and Staff Association, coming up on its second decade of activity, was created to provide support, mentoring and guidance for Black students and the Black community as a whole on campus, said Cliff Poole, president of the BFSA and public speaking professor.

Since 2013, there has been about a 26% increase in Black-identifying faculty and staff along with a roughly 25% increase in Black-identifying students on campus.

However, racially and/or ethnically underrepresented students remain to only account for 18.6% of the student body. This statistic includes every other race of students, excluding white students, with the Black-identifying students at the university, shrinking the percentage of Black students even further. 

“We provide professional development support for our Black faculty and staff,” Poole said. “Our biggest point of our mission is to provide a sense and a space of community for Black faculty and staff at Appalachian State, and for our students as well to help support their community.”

The BFSA has roughly 25 active members in their monthly meetings and a “good mixture” of both faculty and staff involvement, said Poole and Vivid Oguntoyinbo, university program associate and BFSA secretary.

Collaborating with Black fraternities on campus and the Black Student Association, the BFSA has been able to sponsor students to attend the “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” movie when released, organize cookouts together and show support for other events. 

Poole said the main purpose is showing up for the Black community and “representing them across the board.” 

“So our onus is to be more of a support organization rather than the leading organization across campus,” Poole said. 

The organization is planning a basketball event to get members together in support of student-athletes at the university, also hoping to “escape Zoom cameras and offices,” said Robert Carlisle, director of student-athlete development and vice president of the BFSA.

Poole said the BFSA board has created committees to raise the level of engagement from members. 

He said the purpose of the committees are to spread out the work and allow for space for the community to come together to work on social functions, research and best practices functions and to work on a new scholarship, something he said the organization is “very excited about.”

The BFSA is in “the grassroots” of creating a scholarship for Black students at the university. Currently, there isn’t any public information about the scholarship but those interested are directed to access the BFSA website closer to next year, when the scholarship is expected to be active. 

The BFSA is accepting donations for the scholarship and the group is “more than happy for their support,” Oguntoyinbo said.

“We feel that it’s very important that not only do we show up as persons for our students, but we also show up monetarily for our students to support them,” Poole said. 

He said the organization is producing a Black Faculty and Staff Association Google Calendar for engagement of more Black faculty and staff, and for a more relevant list of activities the group is supporting. 

“We’re trying our best to, once again, bring our community not only closer together, but also to be able to help them to be able to become engaged in those areas in which they want to,” Poole said. 

BFSA has funded faculty and staff professional development and travel in presenting papers, along with other types of professional presentations across the country.

Poole has also heard back from Black students expressing gratitude for the mentoring for the group members and that the experience “has made a difference in their lives.”

“They also feel sometimes alone in the spaces that they’re in and knowing that there is a Black faculty or staff member that they can come to, that can relate to what they’re going through, has been very important to them,” Poole said.