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Kimbrely Dandridge Credits BSU Experience with Enabling Her Success

Kimbrely Dandridge. Submitted photo.
As she painted the walls at an underfunded inner city school in Chicago on a Black Student Union service trip, then-University of Mississippi sophomore Kimbrely Dandridge experienced a powerful feeling of community with her fellow UM students.
The trip, which was part of BSU’s observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service compelled the Como native to become more involved with the organization.
“We were visiting schools that were underfunded and heavily populated with minority students,” Dandridge said. “Quite a few of the BSU members had come from high schools across Mississippi, where society fed us statistics that a high school student from Mississippi could only go so far.
“We wanted to show the students at these inner city schools that opportunities were endless, and they could break ceilings and impact society. It was a great time to be able to share with the young students. BSU has always been about serving other students on campus or going out in the community to serve others.”
The university’s BSU, founded in 1968, celebrates its 50th anniversary with events throughout the 2017-18 academic year. The group’s golden birthday will culminate with a gala in February 2018.
Throughout the period of celebration, past presidents, former members, and current students will be profiled on the BSU website and on the UM website. Special anniversary content on social media can also be found using the hashtag #UMBSU50.
By her junior year, Dandridge, who graduated in 2013, had been elected BSU president after previously serving as the organization’s secretary.
The group worked hard to be a support network for students, she said. They set up committees to host events to let students know about career opportunities, helped them with job interview preparation and offered other resources for succeeding before and after graduation.
The organization also served as a “safe space” for Dandridge and other students where issues of race and race-related incidents could be discussed openly and freely, she said.
“Organizations like BSU are vital in the success of minority students,” Dandridge said. “It was a safe space for me because I knew I had a group of people behind me and they were going to be supporting me. BSU has provided that kind of support for many students.”
After serving as BSU president, Dandridge was elected Associated Student Body president her senior year. She credits BSU with showing her how to be someone others look up to.
“BSU really taught me how to be a leader,” she said. “It taught me the importance of discipline and integrity.
“I learned those core values within the BSU and how to grow as an individual in a community with people who do not look like me. It also taught me not to combat hate with hate.”
Dandridge’s leadership with BSU had a positive effect on both herself and the organization, said Val Ross, BSU adviser and director of the UM Office of Leadership and Advocacy who mentored Dandridge.
Her time as president served as a time for self-exploration and provided situational experiences from which Daandridge was able to glean deeply about the unique experience of her African-American peers, Ross said.
“Kim is committed to improve access in higher education and to increase resources and opportunities for African-Americans,” Ross said. “This life goal and the understanding of the complexities and development of strategies by which to feed her commitment provided a stronger foundation and building tools through her leadership with the Black Student Union.”
Dandridge credits Ross as a major influence in her life.
“She instilled in me the importance of professionalism and discipline,” Dandridge said. “I would not have been the student leader I was without her constant push and support.”
Dandridge graduated from UM with a journalism degree. She earned a law degree from Texas Southern University and is a business attorney at Butler Snow in Memphis.
The BSU’s 50-year legacy of ensuring minority students succeed on campus is impressive, she said, predicting that legacy will continue to grow.
“The BSU vision has expanded to help us realize we are not in this alone,” Dandridge said. “Its purpose is to see minority students succeed and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

By: Michael Newsom
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