Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing
Feb 1, 2012
By Katie Flaherty
Years ago diversity was simply recognized as black and white, but as the scope of the definition broadens so does the need for advocacy and support.
Following Ohio University's commitment and definition of diversity, the institution has established efforts in the last three years to increase its focus on this dynamic concept. A large part of this initiative is to expand the impact of diversity and inclusion initiatives beyond the University's diversity offices in Athens and to extend the same inclusiveness and resources to regional campuses.
In order to achieve this inclusion, OHIO appointed former director of student services on the Zanesville campus, Monica Jones, as director of diversity for regional campuses.
She said the hiring of Brian Bridges as the vice provost for diversity, access and equity in 2009 allowed diversity to be represented for the first time on the University's senior administration level.
"We institutionalized the whole concept of diversity – it changed the tone of the conversation," said Jones.
Ironically while advocating for difference, Jones' major task is to promote unity.
"I've got to help people recognize that Ohio University extends beyond Athens, the biggest challenge is we need to have a consistent message when it comes to diversity, access and equity," said Jones.
By being an advocate for regional campuses in Athens, serving as a diversity and inclusion resource for regional campuses and attending weekly meetings with the DAE directors, for example, Jones is able to spread a cohesive message and work toward instituting more diversity events on all campuses.
"Once we see that a campus did a program and it worked effectively, sometimes we don't think to take that same program and replicate it on another campus," said Jones.
There are a number of obstacles hindering the spread of diversity across multiple campuses, including resource challenges across all Ohio University campuses. Jones' aim is to create a reciprocal relationship between all of the campuses.
"I serve as that go-between to make sure that the students get what they need and that faculty and staff are aware of services they can utilize for their classrooms, so I need to let them know there are experts right here in Athens they can utilize and for Athens there are experts on the regionals," she said.
Bridges said the Athens campus is known as a major diversity resource in Southeastern Ohio. This is best exemplified by its strong support of the LGBT and Muslim communities.
"Athens is an enclave of diversity in the surrounding community in ways that others are not, so being able to implement some changes on the regional campuses can help create more of those kind of safe havens for other groups throughout Southeastern Ohio," said Bridges.
To assist in cultivating a universally diverse atmosphere throughout all University's entities, Bridges explains his staff is focusing on a new diversity training program titled Diversity Essentials.
The program was first introduced in the fall and is aimed at increasing faculty and staff's awareness and sensitivity of diversity in order to promote more inclusive atmospheres. Although the pilot program is still being evaluated for improvements, it will return in the spring.
Jones discussed the importance of the idea of educating faculty and staff, as well as the students.
"We focus so much on what students need to know, students kind of get it sometimes, and it's more difficult for those of us who are a little older and a little more set in our ways," said Jones.
Another principle challenge of Jones' position is to create a delicate balance between appreciating the uniqueness of each regional campus with the importance of meeting the needs of every student.
"We no longer just serve people who look, think and act like us, so it's our responsibility to educate ourselves as educators to meet the needs of all students, not just the ones we are familiar with," said Jones.
Including all faculty, staff and students as part of the process, Jones describes the importance of a joint effort of all people and not just minorities advocating for diversity as a key to attaining inclusiveness.
"I can't do this work by myself, this work requires that I train someone so they can go out and challenge things they think are wrong," said Jones.
Always working hard to empower others to participate in her diversity efforts, Jones said, "I tell my students all the time – 'silence is consent, you've got to be willing to advocate for somebody besides yourself.'"