By Noelle Bernard
Miami University is a public college located in the southwestern Ohio town of Oxford, Ohio. Known for its red bricks, “Public Ivy” status, and married Miami graduates known as “Miami Mergers,” poet Robert Frost once called it “the most beautiful college there is.”
Miami has a student population of roughly 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students, with the largest percentage being Caucasian students. As of fall 2010, the university enrolled 14,686 undergraduates. 12,271 students were Caucasian, 602 African American, 349 Hispanic/Latino, 389 Asian, 70 American Indian and 114 multi-racial.
The enrollment numbers are not uncommon for historically white institutions across the country, but Miami has taken significant strides to combat the staggering statistics.The university has services that target multicultural and international students, women, students with disabilities, and the GLBTQ community.
The Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA) provides resources for education and programming to bring awareness and inclusion for everyone, says Gerald Yearwood, Senior Director of the ODA.
“When you allow people to understand not only diversity but also inclusion and difference, you basically have to educate people into understanding that no one’s the same,” Yearwood said. “Everyone’s different in their own way. We have to be accepting of that, which is something that our society does not do.”
The foundation of ODA is to reach diverse students represented by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic statuses, and expose their experiences to the remaining majority.
As soon as a first-year student arrives on campus the ODA exposes them to various organizations that challenge stereotypes and misconceptions. One important first-year program is Made@Miami. This program gives incoming students from diverse backgrounds an exclusive glimpse into the Miami culture three days before regular move-in.
“I always tag it as a three-day boot camp where students are allowed to learn as much as they can about how to navigate Miami University,” Yearwood said. “It gives them an opportunity to integrate with other students, both students of color and with students who are not of color. They form friendships and different ideologies in terms of how they can grow and develop over time.”
Through ODA, GLBTQ services are readily available to increase knowledge and support for the GLBTQ community.
Workshops, lectures, and events are established during each semester where all students and staff can participate through groups such as Spectrum, GLEAM, and Haven.
Moreover, ODA has a student faction from the university’s Associated Student Government (ASG) called The Diversity Affairs Council (DAC). The council is an alliance of student organizations that raise issues regarding the university’s cultural climate to boost the presence of diversity.
Beyond Miami’s Office of Diverse Affairs, the university created the Women’s Center to meet the needs of women on campus.
“The formal mission statement is to advance women’s full participation and success as students and global citizens through educational programs, leadership opportunities, and support and advocacy services that engage students with women and gender issues and foster women’s personal and professional development,” said Rhonda Jackson, Administrative Assistant at the Women’s Center.