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Cecil Walters

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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OMSAR director discusses the future changes in the office

Cecil Walters says office ready for switch to semesters


As the University transitions from quarters to semesters next fall, Ohio University's Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention (OMSAR) staff is developing creative ways to continue to serve Ohio University students.

"The overall mission of the OMSAR office is to provide opportunities for a diverse group of high achieving students and to help them not only enter Ohio University, but excel while they are here," explained OMSAR Director Cecil Walters. "Overall, our mission is focused around academic achievement, leadership, and community service."

The Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention is committed to attracting and retaining highly talented and capable students of diverse backgrounds to maximize their leadership potential through educational and service opportunities. The office offers several competitive scholarships for students from underrepresented groups, such as the Templeton Scholars and Urban Scholars programs. It also provides a variety of student support services, such as the LINKS program, a first year college transition and support program that include peer-mentoring experiences.

With the fall 2012 switch to semesters on the horizon, OMSAR staff has already shifted much of its programming to better serve its students during this major transition period. Walters noted that one change is the year's Templeton Scholars' annual junior research project.

"This year, some of our students are not engaged in a junior year research topic. We are moving in a different direction with leadership and scholarly development with students, and we are now placing greater emphasis on community service with students," stated Walters. "The goal is to serve students in a more holistic manner. Not every student's major or personal interests are best suited for quantitative or qualitative research projects. So, if we do have students participating in research this year, it is [on] an individual [basis] as opposed to a scholarship program initiative."

Walters also is trying to expand the role of the office by adding another student component.

"I am currently writing a grant proposal for the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate program. This is a grant that Ohio University had about four or five years ago, and its purpose is to take low-income, first-generation college students and offer them research and other scholarly activities that lead to doctoral study," Walters explained. "So, if we are awarded that grant that would be a major central piece for our upperclassmen to engage in faculty supervised research and obtain admission into graduate school. We need a more strategic approach [to serving students] so we are not just providing activities or obligations for students, but actually helping students transition into their next year of college and of course on to graduation and onward."

Walters said he is optimistic that adjustments in scholarship programming, shifts in staffs and most importantly, the switch from quarters to semesters, will not create challenges for the office, but rather provide more opportunities to develop creative methods to service its students. Walters said he is an advocate for semesters and stated that next year's longer and sustained academic schedule will give the OMSAR staff increased opportunities to help and interact with students.

As director of the Office for Multicultural Student Access and Retention, Walters said he is committed to ensuring that scholarship programs, requirements and related activities are best-suited for and responsive to the students they serve. For example, starting fall 2012 the OMSAR practices will be guided by a four-year schedule of retention/persistence objectives that serve the immediate and long-term goals of freshmen to senior year students.

"We've already started to produce programming on a weekly basis, with two to three events a week students can attend, all in preparation for semesters," Walters said. "We're really focusing on the key components of academic, leadership, community service and socio-emotional health to give students that extra level of support."

Despite the progress the OMSAR staff has already made in offering support to students and helping them build their professional and academic credentials for future endeavors, Walters stated that he is optimistic about the search for new leadership in the vice provost for diversity and inclusion position.

"Most importantly, we are looking for our new vice provost for diversity and inclusion to be a leader for diversity and inclusion – someone who can work with everyone and someone who will not only be a voice for multiculturalism, but also a creative thinker," Walters concluded.

For more information about OMSAR, visit http://www.ohio.edu/omsar/.