4 MSIs near Travel + Leisure’s Best Towns for the Holidays

by Larry McDaniel Jr.

It is that time of the year when holiday pomp and circumstance take over cities and towns across the nation. As students, staff, and faculty travel home (or stay put in their college towns), they will find themselves welcomed to a host of holiday activities, pop-up markets, and other beautiful wonderland spectacles. Today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up looks at Minority Serving Institutions near Travel + Leisure’s “Best Towns for the Holidays.”

1) California State University (HSI)—Monterey Bay, CA


California State University, Monterey Bay is only 10 miles down the coast from Carmel-by-the-Sea, a beach town on California’s peninsula. The town is most known for its cottage-like hotels, art galleries, pristine beaches, and breath-taking sunsets. In addition, during the holiday season, Carmel-by-the-Sea transforms and lights up the sky with holiday lights. Students from Cal State, Monterey Bay can enjoy a range of events, from performing arts and cultural events, to enjoying the annual tree lighting ceremony.

2) Bowie State University (HBCU)—Bowie, MD


Bowie State University resides only 20 miles from Annapolis, Maryland. For those in the D.C., Maryland, Virginia area, you may be familiar with the famed Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights that takes place yearly on the Annapolis Harbor. Students from Bowie State can enjoy this holiday festivity and cap off the night by enjoying the downtown restaurants and bars, who usually offer holiday specials during the event.

3) Community College of Denver (HSI)—Denver, CO


What better way to spend the holidays and escape the pressures of academia than to play in the snow? The Community College of Denver  is 3.5 hours  from Aspen, CO, which is close in terms of access to snowy mountains. Aspen is decked out with holiday cheer and offers a plethora of free and affordable holiday activities. Students can take snowy night hikes, revel in the torchlight parade and fireworks, and/or sled down powdery slopes.

4) Francis Marion University (PBI)—Florence, SC


For many, Myrtle Beach, SC, is known as a vacation destination along the Atlantic coast; however, during the holiday season it becomes one of the most beautiful holiday cities in the South. Francis Marion University is 61 miles away, providing students with relatively easy access to the Tree Festival, Night of a Thousand Candles, and the holiday-themed boardwalk.

Know any other holiday destinations near Minority Serving Institutions? Share them in the comments!

6 Annual Kwanzaa Celebrations at MSIs

by Carol Sandoval

The month of December is full of festivities that concurrently ring in the new year. Many communities, organizations, and universities all over the world also celebrate Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African celebration that rejoices the “first fruit of the harvest” and the seven principles of African thought and culture. This year it is scheduled for December 26, 2016, through January 1, 2017. Before students return home for winter break, these six MSIs are guaranteed to celebrate the African community, traditions, and values along their peers.

1) Texas College (HBCU)—Tyler, Texas


The Texas College choir partakes in an annual concert to celebrate Kwanzaa. Using melodic tunes and spiritual music, they show appreciation for the African culture. The choir also raises awareness of the holiday by inviting the entire college community to their concert.

2) Hampton University (HBCU)—Hampton, Virginia


The museum at Hampton University sets up a marketplace to celebrate Kwanzaa. The market includes an array of African and African-American gifts available for purchase and various art activities for kids. The museum also puts on a live jazz show and an evening celebration to honor the week of Kwanzaa.

3) University of Southern California (AANAPISI)—Los Angeles, California


Because USC students leave for winter break in early December, the director of the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs says that it has been difficult to plan their annual pre-Kwanzaa celebration. However, this does not discourage him from decorating the Center with Kwanzaa colors to unite the 40 different African American organizations on campus.

4) University of the Pacific (AANAPISI)—Stockton, California


Since 2011, University of the Pacific has hosted its first Kwanzaa celebration. The event consists of a keynote speaker, soul food, and various performances.

5) Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (HBCU)—Tallahassee, Florida


The Educational Research Center for Child Development at Florida A&M incorporates African principles to their academic curriculum. Each of the seven fundamentals of Kwanzaa are used as themes for every month of the program. In December, the Center organizes a Kwanzaa celebration to consolidate the values into one event.

6) California State University, Long Beach (AANAPISI)—Long Beach, California


The Department of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach organizes an event with music and poetry. They also provide “karamu,” which is the traditional Kwanzaa feast that will often include yams, black-eyed peas, and catfish.

Are there other Minority Serving Institutions that will be celebrating Kwanzaa? Let us know in the comments!

How 5 MSIs Celebrate Unique Winter Holidays

by Carol Sandoval

The end of the year is especially known as the holiday season for many people in the United States. Friends and families often gather during the last few months of the year to celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and a host of other holidays together in love. In light of the holiday spirit, today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up highlights 5 MSI holiday celebrations!

1) Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College (TCU)Cloquet, MN


There are often clubs and organizations on college campuses that organize special holiday events. Each December, the Human Services Club at Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, along with other student clubs and organizations, hosts an annual holiday celebration event. The event is open to the public and over 200 people participate in the community event each year. Some of the events include food, games, prizes, and visits from Santa Claus.

For more event details, click here.

2) Gordon College (PBI)—Wenham, MA

Gordon College traditionally kicks off its holiday celebration in the beginning of December with a beautifully lit campus, holiday carols, s’mores, hot chocolate, a bonfire, and hayrides. Gordon College also hosts an Annual Christmas Gala at the local Chapel that features performances by Gordon College Children’s Choir, College Choir, Men’s Choir, Women’s Choir, Gordon College Symphony Orchestra, and the Gordon College Wind Ensemble.

For more details on the events, click here.

3) Bakersfield College (HSI)Bakersfield, CA


At Bakersfield College, the William M. Thomas Planetarium holds a beautiful holiday show called ‘Season of Light,’ that is created specifically for children. The ‘Season of Light’ event celebrates multiculturalism during holidays, as it exemplifies the historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice — not only Christian and Jewish, but also Celtic, Nordic, Roman, Irish, Mexican and Hopi.

For more details on the event, click here.

4) University of Houston (AANAPISI)Houston, TX








During the holiday season, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Student Organization Fund at The University of Houston assists campus organizations in their efforts to showcase aspects of diversity. During the holiday season, they provide financial support and resources to spread awareness about many multicultural holidays: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Mawlidan-Nabi.

For the funding resources application, click here.

5) Mt. San Antonio College (AANAPISI/HSI)Walnut, CA


During the holiday season, Mt. San Antonio College holds an “Annual Wassail Dinner & Concert” that brings together friends, family, and community members. This winter wonderland features a Christmas menu, candlelit walk to the Recital Hall, and a showcase of music featuring the College’s Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, and Fermata Nowhere.

For tickets and more information, click here.

Know other MSIs that celebrate unique winter holidays or traditions? Share in the comments below!

6 MSIs that Volunteer Around the Globe

by Jillian Cener

Did you know that December 5th is International Volunteer Day? These six MSIs think that International Volunteer Day should be celebrated all year long and around the world! Check out the awesome things these students at MSIs have done this year to help others.

1) Florida International University (HSI) – Miami, FL

Cleaning Up Curacao


Students from Florida International University spent time in Curacao this year working with Uniek Curacao, an organization dedicated to preserving the nature on the island. Together, the students worked to make fertilizer, picked 1,200 pounds of trash out from the island’s waters, and planted mangroves. Though the group of students was small, they worked hard to make a difference!

2) Howard University (HBCU) – Washington, D.C.

Distributing Water in Flint


43 students from Howard University spent their spring break this year helping the residents of Flint, Michigan. The students collected and gave out bottles of water to the city’s residents who have been dealing with contamination in their water. While they were there, the Howard students also offered tutoring and homework help to local students.

3) Kean University (HSI) – Union, NJ

Rebuilding New Jersey


A group of 24 students and staff members from Kean University found ways to volunteer in their community over spring break. The group worked with A Future With Hope, an organization committed to repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Students helped rebuild homes in the towns of Villas, NJ, Little Egg Harbor, NJ, and Atlantic City, NJ.

4) San Diego State University (HSI) – San Diego, CA

Developing Education in Guatemala


Comalapa, Guatemala was the spring break destination for ten students from San Diego State University this year. During their time in the country, students volunteered with an organization called Long Way Home by volunteering at their sustainable school. Students helped by building parts of the school, which is made almost entirely out of trash and seeks to shed light on the community’s non-existent waste management system.

5) University of Texas – Arlington (AANAPISI) – Arlington, TX

Second Chances in Louisiana


Students from the University of Texas – Arlington spent their spring break at various community organizations in central Louisiana, including the Manna House in Alexandria, the Youth Center of Pineville, and Re-Entry Solutions of Alexandria. Re-Entry Solutions believes in giving all former inmates a second chance, and students spent their time there by calling individuals and organizing workshops and activities.

6) Savannah State University (HBCU) – Savannah, GA

Volunteering Around the World


Students at Savannah State University had multiple options when choosing where to spend their spring break. Ten students chose to go to Washington, D.C., where they worked with homeless and youth populations. Another ten chose to go to Haiti, where they planted cocoa trees and helped install sustainable energy solutions. A final twelve students helped out at orphanages and women’s shelters in Trinidad & Tobago. These students’ actions are being felt worldwide!

These MSIs and their students know that volunteering is not just about one day of the year. How have you volunteered this year, and how will you do so in the new year? Share with us in the comment section below!