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Joyce Vincent: The Woman Behind Cultural Connections


Joyce Vincent, the former Associate Director of the Native American Student Support Services (NASSS) and former Director of the Dr. Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center (JWECC) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), is the Associate Director for Cultural Enrichment at the Center for Multicultural Advancement & Student Success (CMASS). She is a social justice activist for Indigenous rights, an educator for Native American studies, and has worked tirelessly here on the UMass campus for approximately 20 years.

Recently, Joyce undertook a project called "Cultural Connections: Voices Across Diasporas" where she worked with staff, faculty and students to organize an annual cultural event where people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds gather together to share their talents and culture and learn from each other.

On Thursday, September 6, 2011, Cultural Connections opened to a huge crowd of students, faculty and staff. They participated in a celebration of different cultures through dances presented by various student dance groups and happily tasted multi-ethnic cuisine prepared by Catering Services. Cultural Connections was an opportunity for students and faculty to come together to learn and immerse in the rich and vibrant cultures within the UMass community.

As the theme “Voices Across Diasporas” suggests, the cultural event was created to collectively honor, share, and nourish diverse talents amongst people from various economic backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, and genders.

In preparation for the event, Joyce collaborated with many faculty, staff members, and alumni to unite various student groups and organizations. Among the performers were student spoken word artists (Francoise Ambe), an intertribal powwow drum group (Urban Thunder), South Asian dance team (Dhadak Fusion), “Afro-influenced folk” musicians (Rebirth), the Fear Nuttin Band, and the MultiCultural Greek and National Pan Hellenic Councils. Other Registered Student Organizations (RSO) such as Boricuas Unidos and Casa Dominicana (now collectively known as Latino Unidos) and Students of Caribbean Ancestry (SOCA) were also present in sharing and celebrating their unique cultures.

When she spoke about her own personal experience in preparing for Cultural Connections, Joyce expressed her gratitude for the help extended to her from all her colleagues and felt it was “rewarding to see enthusiastic student participation.”

Cultural Connections has been in existence for several years, and was originally led by another campus organization. Its creation was inspired by the desire to not only unite student groups, but encourage students in learning to honor and nourish their cultural background, bridge the inter-generational gap within cultures, and work towards cultural sustainability—for everyone to engage with students, faculty, and staff of color in celebrating their heritages

Cultural Connections encourages students to show all aspects of their identity, to share their creativity, and to remind everyone of the rich cultural diversity present here on the UMass campus.

Joyce also reminds everyone that the importance of understanding people from various backgrounds who possess a diverse range of interests, and of respecting said interests and talents, despite affiliated organizations or backgrounds, is essential.

“Whether students are in a sorority, fraternity, coming from another organization or otherwise, we want them to come and express their interests and talents despite their backgrounds— we want people to see beyond the black-white paradigm. We want students, staff, and faculty of color to feel welcomed and accepted in the UMass community based on their talents and interests,” Joyce says.

Ultimately, Joyce hopes Cultural Connections will help students gain confidence in their own heritage to cultivate, share, and subsequently sustain their cultures.

Stefanie Chin, CMASS Contributor