Professional Society for Minorities in Honors encourages inclusivity, belonging


GVL / Aida Dennis

Ashley Moubray, Staff Writer

The Professional Society for Minorities in Honors (PSMH) is one of many Grand Valley State University student organizations dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. This organization is made of students from the GVSU Frederik Meijer Honors College (FMHC) and provides them with a safe space no matter their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. 

PSMH’s faculty advisor Melba Velez Ortiz said there are many similar societies nationwide. She said PSMH and others like it involve a collaborative effort to ensure students feel a sense of belonging. 

“Our organization represents any member of an underrepresented community in any group, whether that be disability, ethnicity or gender expression,” Velez Ortiz said. “We are here to provide a sense of belonging and advocacy to those minorities in honors.” 

At the core of PSMH are two values: equity and inclusion. To better understand what these terms mean, Velez Ortiz recalled the words of a former professor: “Diversity is when you invite people to the party, but inclusion is when you ask people to dance.” 

Velez Ortiz said it’s one thing for honors programs to accept minorities but another entirely to provide them with a community to call home. 

PSMH is structured to specifically advocate for minority students within the honors college space, given that honors programs across the country are predominantly white. Many club members feel the organization marks a pivotal milestone in unity and equity. 

“What you are seeing is a historic change and a transformation of all honors programs,” Velez Ortiz said. 

Under student leadership, PSMH was launched in the fall of 2022. The organization has hosted many different events that have helped create an inclusive community including karaoke mixers, storytelling sessions and regular meetings. 

President Elora Ferrie and Vice President Abigail Palmiter’s planning and dedication have allowed the organization to thrive. They work to ensure that all members – minorities and allies alike – feel welcomed and included. 

Typical meetings involve hanging out, bringing food and fostering new friendships. Members often talk about ongoing issues and challenges faced by the community and on-campus efforts to improve their experiences. They take the time to share their own stories and grow alongside one another. 

Recently, FMHC established a Multicultural Room and are in the process of making it a comfortable space for people of different cultures and backgrounds. 

Velez Ortiz said it’s important for underrepresented minorities to feel that they are doing more than “just passing through” the honors program. She said she wants students to feel proud of their place in FMHC through PSMH and additional developments for progress with the multicultural room. She says these are the first steps in creating a sense of belonging. 

Additionally, members are excited that FMHC has hired a well known local artist named Hugo Claudim to create a meaningful piece for PSMH. Sometime in the coming months, he will sit in on club meetings to inspire a work of art that will hang in the halls of Niemeyer Living Center, the residence halls connected to the FMHC building.