When Your Niche Is Nowhere

By Kaela Anderson
Photographed by Jacqueline DeVore

This article has been adapted for the web from our Outsider Issue.


When I applied to various colleges and universities across the United States my senior year of high school, I had three goals for my college experience. I wanted to be in a city, I wanted to travel, and I wanted to be in a diverse environment. Receiving my invitation to N.U.in and the eventual stay on Boston’s campus, my first two wishes were quickly granted.

Unfortunately, my final wish has not been granted. Since being here, the harsh realities of the lack of African American representation in higher education have set in. Instead of admiring the beauty Northeastern possesses, I constantly find myself scrutinizing the student body. In my classrooms, at the gym, around campus, I find myself searching for any kind of evidence that proves my third wish will eventually come true.


Despite Northeastern’s size and prestige, its admissions website says only six percent of African American students enrolled in their undergraduate program. This means that, in my lecture of 150 students, I can count on two hands the number of African American students in the room each class. As for my smaller classes, I am usually the only African American student in the room.

I suppose I could be proud of this, and see these statistics as some sort of triumph, but I don’t. And I never will. Considering that the census lists 13.3% of the population as African-American, Northeastern’s measly 6% reveals the apparent systematic faults of higher education in the United States. The lack of diversity at even a world-renowned institution like Northeastern suggests that it is not an isolated case. I am grateful to attend such an esteemed university, and the modern job market makes it imperative for my success that I receive an education. But being a part of a successful academic community that doesn’t make up for the lack of diversity in the classroom.


Northeastern prides itself on its “diverse” community, even highlighting its level of diversity for prospective students on its admissions website. The school alludes that it’s filled with a student body from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds - but housing students from across the globe does not make it an ethnically inclusive environment. During the winter club fair this past January, I scanned the event hall for clubs that I would be able to identify with. The only one I found was the Mixed Student Union, but even then, I have been reluctant to attend one of their meetings. Although I want to meet people who understand my experience as a woman of color in the Northeastern Community, I want it to be throughout the entire school, not just in one room. I don’t want to have just a place where I can go once a week to fill my void of diversity - it would just remind me of the one wish that hasn’t been ‘granted’ by this university.

Unfortunately, my wish for diversity within Northeastern is not unique. Students of color at colleges and universities across the nation are in the same shoes as me, with no one that understands their experiences to turn to in times of need. Six percent of African American undergraduate students is not enough. Students should never have to feel like an outcast in their community, and we desperately need this to change.