The Educator Feature Stories
The Patton college participates in the first Unity Walk to Embrace Diversity
By Tony Meale
Photos by Rachel Hudacek
Following a series of violent and hateful acts both abroad and in the United States, Ohio University held its First Annual Unity Walk on Feb. 18, asking members of the student body to join hands in an effort to combat racism, prejudice, and bias. While the campus-wide event was sponsored by OHIO’s International Student Union (ISU), The Patton College of Education played a pivotal role in the proceedings, with Academic Advisor Kelly Davidson helping to plan the festivities.
“I was excited to help organize The Patton College’s involvement in the Unity Walk,” said Davidson, who recruited participants and created signs that highlighted The Patton College’s commitment to diversity. “We were being asked to participate in an event that was created to bring Ohio University’s faculty, administrators, staff, and student populations together to celebrate our collective love for OHIO. We are diverse in our interests, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, and races, but when we are united, we are unstoppable.”
As part of the event, OHIO students walked to Baker Center University, shared refreshments in Baker Ballroom, and exchanged stories with one another about their culture, background, and learning experiences, both at OHIO and beyond. The purpose of the event was to celebrate diversity and inclusion and strengthen the sense of community on campus.
“We wanted to do something that acknowledged all Bobcats as individuals and how we can support one another,” said Hashim Pashtun, president of ISU and a doctoral student studying civil engineering. “Even if I know about other cultures, that doesn’t mean I know about all cultures. If I expect someone to respect my country, my culture, and my religion, I have to respect you, your culture, and your beliefs. Respecting one another means getting to know one another.”
Roughly 250 people did exactly that, including several students who opened up about discrimination that they have faced due to ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Before departing, students wrote down one thing that they learned during the event and one thing that they would commit to doing to make the Bobcat community more diverse and inclusive.
“Ohio University is a microcosm of the world,” said Davidson. “When there is civil unrest in the world, there will be civil unrest on campus. I hope that students gained an appreciation for the diversity that exists on our campus. I hope they also saw many hands working together to create an amazing event that celebrated what we have in common while also acknowledging our unique differences.”
Nearly two dozen people from The Patton College participated in the event.
“I believe the turnout would have been greater if it was held in the evening and if it would have been planned a little further in advance,” said Davidson. “I think it was a great event. I was impressed by the event organizers’ ability to pull off the Unity Walk in a short period of time, and I was also impressed with the students who organized the event. The Patton College does a great job of valuing diversity.”
Davidson believes the Unity Walk will become even more popular in the future, though it does present a challenge.
“I thought it was an excellent event,” she said, “but how do we get those who don't care about diversity to embrace and celebrate it? I think that will be our top task in the years to come.”
By Tony Meale
Photos by Rachel Hudacek
Few things unite people quite like food, or better yet, quite like dessert.
If Antoinette Frisoli’s Convention & Event Planning students didn’t know that already, well, they learned it this past semester.
Frisoli, an instructor in the Recreation and Sport Pedagogy Department, along with three graduate students, and a handful of Ohio University student-support offices presented “An Evening of Sweet Exchange,” which was held March 31 at Nelson Commons. The purpose of the event was to provide international and domestic students an opportunity to interact and bond over structured activities, international music, and, yes, plenty of sweets.
“Food brings people together in many cultures,” said Frisoli. “It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening.”
Relaxing for attending students, yes. For the planning committee, though, it was more so rewarding – sort of like a chocolate chip cookie after a tough workout.
Earlier this year, Frisoli attended a meeting in which the Office of Global Opportunities noted a large gap in interaction between international and domestic students on campus.
“After that, I made it my mission to develop some sort of event to bring together international and domestic students,” said Frisoli, who is also chair of the International Advisory Committee.
Three graduate students in Frisoli’s Rec: 5620 course – Elizabeth Rose, Aimee Townsend, and Dominique Aaron – were tasked with planning and executing an event that would successfully bring together students from different backgrounds. Their goal, above all, was to offer an out-of-classroom experience that would help develop OHIO students as culturally competent professionals and leaders of society.
“We were basically going off the mission and visions of The Patton College,” said Rose, who is pursuing a master’s in Recreation Management. “We were trying to take their idea of out-of-classroom learning and institute it in a multicultural way in order to better align ourselves with what the college is and is working towards.”
Beginning in February, Rose, Townsend, and Aaron met in and out of class weekly and communicated daily about the event.
“We all worked together and took initiative when it needed to happen to stay on track with our timeline,” said Rose. It wasn’t that we worked hard. We worked smart. After the first few weeks, things went pretty smoothly. We used our time wisely.”
Originally, the committee wanted to organize a sit-down dinner but decided on desserts for two main reasons: funding and ease of interaction. Rather than forcing students to remain stationary in chairs and divided by tables, the committee wanted students to relax and interact freely at their leisure. To that end, entering participants were directed toward a specific blanket – a comfort object, if you will – and interacted with fellow students.
“We felt it would be a more comfortable setting, that people wouldn’t have that distance, that they could interact in a more personal way,” said Rose. “It had an easier flow and the space was more open that way. It was also just something to bring a unique twist while they were there.”
Nine offices donated more than $2,000 to the committee for this event, which featured cakes, cookies, and – at the request of the Recreation and Sport Pedagogy Department – fruit.
“They wanted us to offer a healthy alternative,” said Rose.
Other sponsors included the Teacher Education Department, the Human & Consumer Sciences Department, the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, the Multicultural Center, the Division of Student Affairs, Housing & Residence Life, and International Student & Faculty Services.
As for marketing, the committee left no stone unturned. They emailed students, worked social media, passed out fliers, attended various on-campus meetings to spread the word, and set up a table in Baker Center the day of the event, among other promotional endeavors.
“We were so nervous leading up to it because we had so much invested, the departments had so much invested, and we were really going strong with marketing, especially towards the end,” said Rose. “We did everything we could to get people there.”
It worked. Roughly 150 students attended the event, and at least half stayed until the end.
“I was impressed by not only how many students attended, but also how the event was organized,” said Frisoli. “Students participated in interactive activities that encouraged teamwork and communication and breaking down cultural barriers.”
Students who stayed for the duration were given coupons to Court Street Coffee.
“The purpose of the coupons was to give them an outlet to meet up in the future,” said Rose, who hopes the event continues next year.
“It really did seem like a lot of people had fun, and the upper administrators who sponsored our event were incredibly happy,” she said. “What else could we ask for?”