Imagine walking into a room full of people, your eyes darting hastily from corner to corner, eager to spot a recognizable face. The moments in the room pass lazily as you struggle to meet an accepting gaze. When suddenly: you do, you breathe a sigh of relief and your countenance calms. You feel welcome and seen.

This is exactly how Chloe Hennings, Daemen University graduate student, describes one facet of diversity and what it means to her. “Diversity means safety,” says Hennings.“It means I get the comfortability of being understood authentically as a Black woman. It means that I am not trying to find exit doors, or rehearse my response in a racial conversation. It means I am safe.”

Hennings, who is currently enrolled in Daemens’s Graduate Nurse Practitioner program, received her undergraduate degree from Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida where she majored in biology. The sense of belonging and inclusion is what drew her to the historically Black college for her undergraduate studies. In her search for a place to further her education, she was left standing in that proverbial room looking for belonging once again.

Hennings grew up locally in Williamsville and was familiar with Daemen. She decided to speak with some alumni about their experience. “It was important for me to be comfortable and seen as a Black woman in any university that I chose to attend, and from what the Daemen alumni were telling me, I knew Daemen would be a great place to continue my studies.”

With an original goal to be a doctor, Hennings eventually felt led into the nursing field. She knew she wanted a direct entry program that provided the flexibility to continue working while earning her degree – two things that Daemen provided.

“Nursing gave me an opportunity to fulfill my purpose. It has restored hope back into my life.”

For Hennings, diversity also means opportunity.

“You cannot be what you cannot see,” says Hennings, “I had a Black patient once tell me, ‘Thank you for choosing to be a nurse; we need more mirrors.’

“That statement was so profound. Just being her nurse made her feel seen. Healthcare, especially, is not representative of the population being treated.”

Now that she is enrolled at Daemen and beginning her fourth semester, she has a clear view of where she fits in.

“Diversity is so multifaceted that sometimes it is hard to define. I think diversity is best defined by those who create diversity. It means that I am heard. It means my experiences matter in this space. Diversity means having representation. Universities do a lot of campaigning to attract new students,” said Hennings. “There are parties, giveaways, and perks to joining a campus community, but once that initial excitement passes, there is not much left for the students a lot of times.”

After enrolling at Daemen, she found the opposite to be true. “Daemen is not that way. The celebration of diversity is what made me feel welcomed here. Daemen isn’t just recognizing minority students, it is creating opportunities for us. Here, the president, faculty, and staff speak against racism and put actions behind words becoming allies to diverse communities. That is what sets Daemen apart. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I can say with confidence that Daemen University cares.”