New Af-Am official hopes to be advocate for students

Shruti Kumar

Bringing some coastal flavor to his first job in the Midwest, James Britt, new assistant director of African-American Student Affairs, said he is settled in for the most part.

“I didn’t have Midwest experience and I wanted to add that to my repertoire,” said Britt, who added that location influenced his decision to work at Northwestern.

Britt, who joined the staff July 29, formerly served as coordinator for student development at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

“This is a young man coming with a lot of experience and hope for working with students,” said Carretta Cooke, director of African-American Student Affairs.

There was much resentment among black students on campus when popular assistant director Derek Wilson was fired one year ago. Wilson said last year he did not receive proper warning and claims against him were invalid.

Cooke said Britt was an attractive candidate because of his previous work at an academically competitive school.

“He has brought with him a wealth and array of experience working with students from diverse backgrounds,” Cooke said. “He would be the kind of employee who could do student outreach, which is what his role is going to focus on heavily.”

Britt will advise student organizations, take charge of student employees and act as the primary liaison between African-American Student Affairs and other organizations on campus.

“I hope to be an advocate for students at Northwestern,” Britt said. “I think I have a commitment to not only African-American students, but all students in general.”

Britt, originally from Richmond, Va., received his undergraduate degree in sociology and African-American studies from the University of Virginia and his graduate degree in Counseling Education from Virginia Commonwealth University.

NU students said they also have high expectations for Britt.

“I would like for him to find ways to keep the African-American community less polarized from the rest of campus,” said Tracy Carson, a Weinberg junior. “(The black community) is definitely an entity in itself but we don’t necessarily want to be estranged.”

Medill junior Mike Blake said he hopes Britt can encourage more black students to get involved on campus.

“As any ethnic minority you have to struggle, but when there is a small percentage of that minority involved, you have to get more people involved,” Blake said.

“He’s a very nice gentleman and he brings a lot of knowledge and resources to the position,” said Le’Jamiel Goodall, a Communication senior. “I look forward to him working with upcoming students and helping with student organizations that come out of the Black House.”

Cooke said she thinks Britt is the person African-American Student Affairs needs.

“He’s got a wonderful sense of humor, and is really creative and really innovative,” she said. “We’re really hopeful for (Britt) and really want to support him in his endeavors in this office.”