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Our community is engaged in an important effort to create a community of belonging. This exhibition illustrates belonging through the recorded, unrehearsed, personal stories of eleven, self-selected and local participants. They were asked to share their understandings and experiences of belonging.

Voices of Belonging - Darren and Melody

"Belonging… it means that you are connected, you have a sense of purpose, and the ability to feel like I am part of a community."

Darren: My name is Darren Mitchell, and I am currently serving as the Acting Chief of Police at NIU.

Melody: I'm Melody Mitchell, I am currently the Chief of Staff and assistant dean at the NIU College of Law.

D: And we're married. I came here in 1988 as an undergraduate student, so that's what brought me education. NIU was considered a remarkable university for the major I was interested in, which was political science.

M: And I came in 1989 for that same reason, I was a business major.

D: But what has kept us here is the university. The university community has been so wonderful to us. Number one, the education that we received. I got an undergrad degree, and a master's degree here, and my wife...

M: Got an undergrad and master's degree.

D: We thought that we were gonna, you know, complete our education and go back to Chicago, and you know, live the life and we just fell in love with the community, the serenity, being on a college campus and a college town. It was just absolutely wonderful. We got married, started a family. And we said, you know what...

M: Dekalb is not so bad...

D: Dekalb is not so bad. After we had our first babies, like, you know what, Dekalb is not so bad at all. Belonging to me, means that you are part of something, it means that you are connected, you have a sense of purpose, and the ability to feel like, ‘I am part of a community. And so, I'm welcome here, I am a part of this community. I have history here, I built roots here.’ So that's what belonging means to me. I would just say that on campus, obviously, the careers that we've established with the university, our education, and the careers we built here have been absolutely amazing. And so we're deeply rooted, obviously, in the university, professionally and academically, but also off campus, raising our family here, being homeowners, being involved in nonprofit work, which my wife has had the opportunity to do a lot more than I.

And so just having those connections and building the friendships in the community as well. So, both of the things that make us feel belonging I think will be important just to recognize the differences in so many people. I mean, nowadays we live in the information age. And so people have access to so much information, and you can learn so much about different people and cultures. And Dekalb is more diverse than it was when I first came here 33 years ago. And so I think as you start to adapt, and welcome, embrace the diversity that has evolved over the three decades I've been here. I think, you know, that's how you make people feel more welcome and connected to the community.

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