Setting high expectations

The director of Multicultural Student Affairs strives to get students to be the best they can be.
by Ashley A. Williams
UM News

For more than 25 years, Renee Dickens Callan has dedicated her life to advocating and assisting students of marginalized identities.

As director of Multicultural Student Affairs at the University of Miami, Callan leads a team that’s focused on offering support through educational programming, acquiring internships, scholarship opportunities, and more.

Callen discovered her passion for student activism while a freshman at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. One of 14 black students at the college, she worked to create programs and services specifically for minority students. Upon graduating with her Bachelor’s degree, she enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Vermont and focused on her passion.

The daughter of a teacher, Callan believes in setting high standards for what students can achieve at the university level. She encourages students to take educational risks and sharpen their academic skills by setting high standards for themselves.

“Setting high expectations and providing support is important and helps students to see what is possible and know that they are capable,” she said. “We continually strive to create that type of environment in our office.”

Most recently, Callan’s office hosted their second annual Students of Color Symposium during Black Awareness Month on the Coral Gables campus. More than 100 students registered and attended the two-day event located inside the Shalala Student Center. The goal was to enhance the cultural awareness and social responsibility of the University.

“Our goal is to give a space where voices of people of color are centered in the conversation,” Callan explained. “A place where students can collectively share commonalities, respectfully engage in dialogue, be affirmed, increase their understanding of identity, and develop critical thinking skills around social justice issues that impact underrepresented and marginalized communities.”

Callan is always listening, reading about best practices, and determining how her department can contribute to the University's Roadmap to Our New Century initiative.

“As we learn more about the strategic plan and the Roadmap,” she said, “we will continue to create innovative practices that contribute to a culture of belonging and support institutional excellence.”

Callan said, to her, Black History Month "provides an opportunity for me to reflect upon my ancestors and the many contributions people who look like me have made to our society.  It also allows others to acknowledge and celebrate the rich history and traditions of those from the African diaspora.  It is important that I continue to highlight and educate myself on the missing voices and stories of Black culture."

For more information about the Multicultural Student Affairs office, contact them at or visit their office in the Whitten University Center Suite 2300F.

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