Making It Different: Alumnus Sparks Student Leadership on Campus

A membership meeting of the Black Student Leaders Association. From left: Current student Joe Washington, alumnus and BSLA leader Corey Favor (CCAD 2002), and current students Kourtney Thorn and Marquis Engle.

On graduation day, the last thing on the mind of most students is, “I wonder how I can repay my college for everything I have experienced and accomplished.” Most alumni don’t even think about giving back until years down the road—and it’s usually in the form of a donation. But two recent CCAD graduates are giving CCAD less common gifts: leadership and passion.

A New York City native, Corey Favor graduated from CCAD in 2002 with a B.F.A. in Illustration and has stayed in Columbus. Now the graphic designer and digital support coordinator for Radio One, Favor admits to missing the fast pace of the Big Apple. Rather than pick up a new hobby, he started mentoring African American high school students—but was not fully satisfied.

A membership meeting of the Black Student Leaders Association.

“This may sound over-sentimental, but I had a moment of clarity [when I] knew I had a deeper purpose. As an African American artist and college graduate, I felt a responsibility to help young African American artists, in hopes of giving them better guidance than I ever had when I was young,” said Favor. He knew he had to go back to CCAD.

Favor describes his college days at CCAD as lonely. He was a minority who was far from home, he said, and “back then, there were only a handful of us [African Americans]. We didn’t have any mentors or alumni to look up to, so we supported each other.”

Why would mentors have helped? Favor recalls, “When you’re at school, that’s all you see. The outside world doesn’t really exist. Now picture CCAD as a boot camp for art. You receive orders from a figurehead about how to use your skills and your tools—and some visual examples—but there are no veterans to tell you what battle is like. At graduation, you’re thrust into the battlefield we call life, and all the while, you wish someone would have told you more.”

A membership meeting of the Black Student Leaders Association.

Since Favor’s reconnection with CCAD last summer, he has become the co-advisor of the campus’s only African American-focused student organization, the Black Student Leaders Association (BSLA). With the help of fellow African American alumnus Marshall Shorts (CCAD 2006) and CCAD staff, Favor supports the group as it holds programs around campus. He facilitates the development of members’ leadership skills through frank and insightful conversations. He also makes it a point to bring two guest speakers a month to attend the membership meeting. But these presenters aren’t just anybody. They are successful African American artists or designers from diverse disciplines who are recognized leaders in the Columbus community.

“I set up these guest speakers because I want students to feel empowered. I want them to leave the meeting saying, ‘Wow! If he or she can do it, I can do it,’” said Favor.

A membership meeting of the Black Student Leaders Association.

Favor’s hard work has paid off. Since September, BSLA has grown from 4 students to a large group of over 20 dedicated members.

“Having someone to talk and relate to has been great,” said Jocelyn Williams, a Junior in Interior Design. “He [Favor] knows what it’s like to be at CCAD as a black student.”

Another student, Josh Wallace, admits that he appreciates the sense of community that has emerged since BSLA started. Students have even begun to network with other African American student organizations in the Columbus area. “It’s great that we have someone to do this…[to] listen and advise us,” said Wallace. “But what’s even better is seeing someone be successful and [then] return to help us out.”

Favor’s response? “I just hope that there are alumni like me at every campus.”