Tue, 10/10/2023 - 11:07
| Written for: DSA News
Supporting the success of students at the University of North Texas goes beyond the classroom. The Diamond Eagle Student Resource Center (DESRC) helps students navigate various financial barriers by bringing together four student service programs – the UNT Food Pantry Presented by Kroger, Suit Up Closet, Mean Green Gowns for Grads program and the We Mean Green Fund (WMGF). Organized under one roof, these programs support the professional and academic success of UNT students.
Meeting a need
According to a 2021 survey conducted by the Hope Center, nearly one-third of students at four-year institutions nationwide experience food insecurity. Students who lack proper access to food are over 40% less likely to graduate. The UNT Food Pantry Presented by Kroger was established in 2015 to help combat the increasing issue of food insecurity among UNT students. In 2019, the pantry outgrew its original home in a University Union closet and moved to the DESRC in Crumley Hall. Thanks to a partnership with Kroger in 2021, the food pantry has continued to grow. During the 2022-23 academic year alone, the UNT Food Pantry Presented by Kroger was visited 13,098 times by 3,952 students.
“It is hard to study and succeed as a student on an empty stomach,” said Tristen Wheeler, who manages the DESRC. “Our services help students know what their next meal is going to be, and sometimes gives them some peace of mind to know that we are always here if the bills need to get paid before a grocery run can happen.”
Dressing for success
First impressions can be everything, and that is why the Suit Up Closet provides UNT students with free rentals of professional attire so that they can look their best for job interviews, headshots, career fairs and other professional events. From shoes and belts to button downs and blazers, students can find new and gently used clothing donated from the UNT campus and area communities, alumni and corporate friends like JCPenney. During the 2022-23 academic year, the program helped 248 students look sharp as they took steps forward in their professional journey.
The DESRC also offers free rentals of graduation caps, gowns and other graduation accessories to students who cannot afford regalia and otherwise might not walk the stage at commencement. Thanks to the Mean Green Gowns for Grads program, 310 graduates were provided with gowns for graduation during the 2022-23 academic year. Graduation is an important and exciting milestone – one that all students should be able to celebrate in a memorable way.
The work of the DESRC not only addresses food insecurity and financial hardship, it also supports sustainability, and does so with a holistic approach. The pantry receives fresh produce supplied by the UNT Community Garden, which is managed by the We Mean Green Fund and was established in 2017. Started in 2010 through a self-imposed student environmental service fee, the WMGF supports community-driven sustainability projects at UNT. Projects like the Community Garden provide opportunities for members of the UNT community to engage with one another and work together to help create a greener campus. The WMGF engaged 851 students in sustainability projects during the 2022-23 academic year. Graduates who report at least 75 hours of environmentally focused volunteer efforts as a student are recognized by the WMGF with a hand-dyed Environmental Volunteerism Graduation Cord.
“The most unique thing about our Center is the combination of financial support with our sustainability programs,” said Wheeler. “We are able to teach students environmentally conscious decision making while also teaching them to help themselves like how to grow their own food, how to cook with the least amount of food waste, and meal planning to reduce both cost and their carbon footprint.”
From helping UNT students stay fed and focused to celebrating the moment their efforts were leading up to, the DESRC is there to offer support along the way, help students grow and build community.
“I am proud to be a part of this center and hope to continue to bring light to these initiatives campuswide,” said Dr. Laura Smith, UNT dean of students. “The services and programs within the Diamond Eagle Student Resource Center are vital to our UNT community. These programs come together to meet a variety of basic needs by addressing potential financial barriers in a discrete and respectful way.”
To learn more about the DESCR and how you might get involved, visit the center's website.