Ohio University

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Published: May 30, 2018 Author: George E. Mauzy Jr.

The ninth annual Ohio University Summer Institute for Diversity Education (SIDE) was held in May on the Athens Campus and for the first time attendees came from as far as California to participate.

Ohio University alumnus and Western Michigan University Professor of Communication Dr. Mark P. Orbe, an internationally known educator, author and consultant, leads the four-day, 30-hour training.

SIDE, which has been listed as an Ohio University “Point of Pride,” is a signature program for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. It is designed to empower and train participants in the art of effective diversity programming through individual and group exercises.

Dr. Orbe said this year's training fulfilled the organizers’ initial idea of creating a nationally known program that will attract people from all over the nation and makes Athens, Ohio, a place where people go for top-notch diversity education.

“Our original goal for SIDE was to create a resource for Ohio University folks,” Dr. Orbe said. “Early on, we found that there was a need beyond Ohio University. We have seen the outreach over the years. That was the long-term goal and this year has been the best epitome of that.”

Dr. Orbe said that one of the most valuable things that happens at SIDE is the co-learning that takes place.

“Sometimes the biggest lesson they learn is not from me, but the person sitting next to them,” Dr. Orbe said. “I want to build on the opportunities where that can happen.”

This year’s SIDE group included Leslie Culver, a professor at California Western School of Law in San Diego. She said she attended the training to gather information that she will use in an upcoming academic paper.

“I came to SIDE because some of the research that I do in my scholarship looks at identity performance from marginalized communities,” Culver said. “About a year and a half ago, I came across the co-cultural theory and kept seeing this name, Mark Orbe. The theories he was using were so on point with my work. When my research assistant was looking for teaching methodologies that I can use in a new article and came across this SIDE Conference, I said I must be there and learn from this man. This training is fabulous.”

Matthew Charnetski, the director of simulation learning at the New York Institute of Technology in Jonesboro, Arkansas, said he decided to attend the SIDE training after Dr. Orbe came to his campus last fall to perform some cultural competency training with the school’s osteopathic medical students.

“We realized that we needed to do something more regular and intentional,” Charnetski said. “Dr. Orbe will continue to come down once a year for a large training, but we plan to perform other diversity training activities throughout the year.

“We hope to bring elements of cultural competency and cultural awareness into the simulation patient encounters, so that we can practically run those threads. We hope our students take what they learned from those activities and implement them into a patient care setting.”

Currently in his 28th year in law enforcement, Ohio University Police Department Lt. Brian Newvahner said the SIDE training was really good for him.

"Captain (George) Harlow asked me if I wanted to attend SIDE and I said I would love to,” Lt. Newvahner said. “I didn't think it would entail the depth that we went into. After hearing the other SIDE participants speak, I got a better feeling about how the community feels about police officers. It has taught me to be more mindful.”

Dr. Jennifaye Brown, assistant clinical professor in the Ohio University Division of Physical Therapy, said that as a black female, the training has opened her eyes on how to explain diversity to other people.

“I feel valued and affirmed that the experiences that I am having are real and shared by other people,” Dr. Brown said. “This is a great training. I'm hoping for a 10-year anniversary celebration next year.”

Vanessa Jimenez, a community engagement manager at Health Net of West Michigan, is a former student of Dr. Orbe. She said she enrolled in SIDE because she wanted to reconnect with him to learn more about diversity and inclusion.

Jimenez said the training will help her better perform her communications consulting work with small businesses and non-profit organizations.

“I came to SIDE because I want to focus more on communications on my job,” Jimenez said. “The opportunity to get some more learning around that was ideal to me. I was able to learn from Dr. Orbe and many other people, which gave me a different perspective as well. 

"SIDE has been a really enriching experience,” Jimenez said. “The experiential learning approach has been awesome. The reflection time and to learn about myself and my tendencies, and ways to improve the facilitation that I do have been the best takeaways of this training. I highly recommend this training. Dealing with the makeup of our society, this training is relevant across the board.”

Dr. Orbe said SIDE organizers are now seeing the fruits of their labor.

“The program has gained national attention and people realize that what's going on here is not available in other places,” Dr. Orbe said. “The challenge is how do we keep this as a resource for Athens area folks, but also provide opportunities to stretch beyond our boundaries.”

SIDE participants received a certificate in diversity training and three continuing education units (CEU) after completing the May 15-18 training. More than 220 people have completed SIDE training since its inception in 2010.

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