The term “woke” has gained widespread cultural currency because of the activism of the Black Lives Matter movement. To be “woke” involves opening one’s eyes to social systems of oppression in such a way that a person cannot in good conscience fall back “asleep” and ignore injustice; however, because oppressive structures are largely enculturated all around us, it requires active effort to engage and see the society with a critical cultural lens.
At CU Boulder, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE) and BeVisible see last semester’s Be Woke events as opportunities where folks actively engaged with and learned from the job market—an imperfect arena where individuals and companies must take conscious effort to ensure workplaces are inclusive.
BeWoke was started in 2017 as a partnership between ODECE and BeVisible, a Boulder-based startup that connects “Latinx” and other underrepresented students to career and other opportunities.
Be Woke programming aims to increase the sense of possibility for underrepresented students and help them expand their networks and increase their social capital in dynamic sectors of the economy.
The Be Woke program brings leaders from prominent tech and other companies to campus to engage students, faculty and staff. BeWoke has welcomed executives from prominent Silicon Valley companies such as Reddit, Lyft and AirBnB, as well as mainstream companies, such as Procter & Gamble, Miller Coors and Comcast, and leading not-for-profit organizations. These guests spoke about their own career trajectories and how diverse students can position themselves for jobs and navigate complex workplace cultures.
“We are creating programming that engages students of color and first-generation college students in profound ways. It’s about graduating and preparing students for their future endeavors,” says Alphonse Keasley, associate vice chancellor for ODECE. “We want them to envision themselves as leaders, whether in tech companies, elsewhere in the private sector, or in the public or nonprofit spheres.”
Be Woke will continue in the spring 2018 semester with a new series called “Sisters and Comrades,” which will focus on women of color developing as leaders in the new economy. The first event will be a speed mentoring session in partnership with the Women Leadership Symposium, with the goal of connecting students to diverse role models from across the CU community.
The Be Woke program is also partnering with Student Affairs and the CU LEAD Alliance to encourage students from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in the innovation economy. The program aims to launch version 1.0 of an internship program for these students in 2018.