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Jessica Orlowski catches a ball of yarn during the Web of Affirmation exercise at 2014 SIDE

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

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Keana Robinson discusses how she will bring the skills she learned to her workplace during 2014 SIDE.

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

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The 2014 SIDE cohort participates in the Web of Affirmation exercise

Photographer: Jonathan Adams

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SIDE diversity training expands reach to Cleveland

Record-number 30 people participate in fifth cohort


Because Ohio University places a high priority on the importance of diversity education, the Ohio University Summer Institute for Diversity Education (SIDE) was held on the Athens Campus for the fifth consecutive year.

SIDE, which took place May 13-16, is led each year by Western Michigan University Professor and Ohio University alumnus Mark P. Orbe, an internationally known educator, author and consultant. The 30-hour curriculum is designed to empower and train participants in the art of effective diversity programming through individual and group exercises.

A record-number 30 participants received a certificate in diversity training and three continuing education units (CEU) after completing the four-day training. SIDE, which is annually sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, has trained 130 people since its inception in 2010.

Orbe said this year's cohort was the most diverse in his five years of facilitating the training. Among the attendees were faculty, staff and students from Ohio University and Hocking College, as well as several employees from the Cleveland Public Libraries.

Orbe talked more about how the fifth SIDE cohort stood out.

"This cohort is our largest ever and probably our most diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, age, gender and sexuality, and that has made the process more meaningful for many individuals," Orbe said. "This group came in ready to do the work, so early on we were able to have some conversations that we wouldn't have immediately had in other cohorts. This group has become very cohesive. It's been amazing."

Orbe also shared his thoughts about the future of SIDE.

"We are in a point of transition in SIDE, so we need to take it to the next level and expand the training," Orbe said. "We can't keep this great secret close to the heart any longer. My vision is for Ohio University and Athens to be a place where people come to for the highest quality of diversity education."

Here are some thoughts of several 2014 SIDE participants:

Jacob Okumu, coordinator for student outreach and developmental services in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion:

Coming here from Kenya, I had some stereotypes about the U.S. and most of them were based on watching MTV and CNN. Attending this conference created an opportunity to be more aware of the voices that are shut down in my life. I'm beginning to view people differently. I'm learning to listen and beginning to learn what it means to live in this society and what I bring to it.  

Madeline Corchado, a Puerto Rico native who works in human resources at the Cleveland Public Library:

My experience has been absolutely great. I came in with an idea that I had some competencies based on diversity and inclusion, but the program changed me. I realize that we all have biases and we can alllearn to listen for cues and place ourselves in somebody else's perspective. To me that was transformative. I saw that everyone brings baggage and pain.

Rob Razzante, an Ohio University alumnus from Cleveland who earned bachelor's degrees in communication studies and Spanish earlier this month:

During the cohort, I found out about my vulnerability because I'm not sure what I want to do with my life. Everyone here has different titles, but if you put your titles aside and show your vulnerability, it becomes a teaching point for others. It also lets us all know that other people are going through the same things.

Keana Robinson, a 19-year-old Ohio University anthropology major from Middleport, Ohio, who was the youngest person in the cohort:

I thought this training would make me a well-rounded person. It surprised me to hear how each generation saw things differently because of their past experiences. We need to take down the barriers and make it one, I don't like the separation.

Amelia Pendleton, a circulation assistant in the Euclid (Ohio) Public Library:

What I've learned in SIDE is that people are people and no matter what they do for a living – they have a lot of the same issues. We all want the same thing for the most part. When you meet people on a daily basis, they don't tell you everything. It was nice to see that the feelings I have are not unique to me.  

Delfin Bautista, director of the Ohio University LGBT Center:

I appreciated the intentionality at looking at diversity in its many facets. Not only looking at race and ethnicity, but also looking at gender, orientation and ability. It makes the conversation more complicated, but also much richer. I'm taking away hope that others are thinking in a similar way about how we look and talk about race. When we do, hopefully we are also looking at ability, religion and sexuality from a racial perspective.

Kim Blue, associate director for employment relations in the Ohio University Career, Leadership and Development Center:

I realized how diverse we are, but also how similar we are. Once we began getting into the nitty-gritty of the sessions, it taught us that what we see on the outside is not the true story of the person. We did some powerful sessions where you really got to see the core of someone. It will be hard to leave these people, because you have created a bond with them.

For more information about SIDE, visit http://www.ohio.edu/diversity/side/