Diving into Diversity

August 23, 2021

Ohio University centers, student orgs offer diversity resources to minority groups

By Lauren Serge | Staff Writer

A t Ohio University, there are several centers and student organizations catered to diverse groups of students, whether they are centered on sexual orientation and gender identity, women’s issues or international student affairs. These diversity resources provide students with spaces for open communication, bonding and security.

OU’s division of diversity and inclusion consists of three centers, each of which are located in Baker University Center: the LGBT Center, the Multicultural Center and the Women’s Center.

The LGBT Center

The LGBT Center focuses on providing support to individuals with diverse sexual and gender identities. Through programming and outreach efforts, the center aims to recognize the unique experiences of queer individuals on and off campus.

Micah McCarey, director of the LGBT Center, described the place as a “point of connection,” as its resources extend far beyond its physical location.

“It's a super inclusive place for any member of the community to connect with other LGBTQ students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members, whether it's between classes or coming to our workshops or programs, or to peruse our LGBT books and resources,” McCarey said. “And although the office is physically in Baker Center on the third floor, we have a network of allies and community members across all academic and co-curricular departments and in the community. So it's really this intangible network of people who are just wanting the best for LGBTQ progress.”

By having the LGBT Center as a resource for LGBTQ+ students, McCarey said it expands the understanding of the traditional social constructions of gender and sexuality.

“It's an important educational opportunity to help extend people's understanding of gender identity and sexuality,” McCarey said. “Given so many folks, especially those who were raised in the United States, have been taught to think about (sexuality and gender) as fixed binaries as opposed to aspects of your identity that can change over time and really exist along this spectrum or continuum, other than a binary. So we have to grow in our understanding, and a university plays a big role in that intellectual growth. So that's what we're here to do and to promote not just the understanding, but the respect and tolerance and the support.”

The Multicultural Center

The Multicultural Center at OU offers educational and social programs to students that reflect the cultural experiences of African Americans, Hispanic and Latinx Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Winsome Chunnu, director of the multicultural center, described the multicultural center as a resource that enables sincere conversation surrounding difficult cultural topics.

“(The center) is highly beneficial for all bobcats, domestic and international, also for faculty, staff and community members, because we are about education, regarding issues around diversity within the United States,” Chunnu said. “And now more than ever, is a time in our country where those conversations need to happen. Some of our students come to campus and they've never engaged in those kinds of conversations before. And so we provide a space where they can engage being comfortable knowing that they do not know everything, and that it is okay to ask. And when they leave Ohio University, then we are a part of the global mission of the university as well in preparing all our students to be not just leaders, but global leaders and global bobcats.”

The Women's Center

The Women’s Center at OU provides services that promote the understanding of women’s experiences and gender diversity. Through programming and social events, the Women’s Center aims to advocate for issues pertaining to women.

M. Geneva Murray, director of the Women’s Center, said the space empowers women both professionally and personally.

“The Women's Center provides students with a physical space in which they can meet new friends and study, as well as opportunities for connection through events, programs and online engagement,” Murray said in an email. “Additionally, our events are a great hands-on way for students to learn about their academic areas of study, as well as potential careers. Our programs focus on women's diverse experiences, but are open to all to attend.”

Aside from the individual centers at OU, there are numerous student organizations on campus that promote diversity and have centralized topics that represent various minority groups on campus.

The International Student Union

The International Student Union (ISU) serves as an umbrella organization for other international student organizations, fostering a sense of community and inclusivity for students on campus.

Deependra Budhathoki, a fifth year Ph.D. student studying math education, is the president of the ISU. Budhathoki said the ISU is beneficial in that it enables students with different backgrounds to feel understood and welcome.

“Coming to a different country or a different locality may be a cultural shock (where) the students may feel lonely,” Budhathoki said. “So if they are in contact with the international student union, they can have a belief that there is someone else who can work for them and support them if they need any help.”

Budhathoki said this assistance that ISU provides allows the students to be represented in a more personal sense that academics may not be able to provide.

“The other thing is different students may have different needs and necessities and the OU administration may not (understand) those things directly, so we can represent each student’s voice to the university,” Budhathoki said.

“The other thing is different students may have different needs and necessities and the OU administration may not (understand) those things directly, so we can represent each student’s voice to the university"—Deependra Budhathoki, a fifth year PHD student studying math education and president of the ISU here

Spectrum Plus

Spectrum Plus is a student organization that focuses on magnifying the queer experience through educational and social events. The organization meets biweekly and offers both academic and personal support.

Mia Walsh, a sophomore studying journalism, is the treasurer of Spectrum Plus. Walsh said Spectrum Plus is unique in its focus on comfort and socialization.

“With a lot of the student organizations, it feels like you have to prepare yourself before you join them, but everybody in Spectrum Plus is very laid back,” Walsh said. “Our time commitment is very laid back as well. You don't have to attend every meeting. We're really just there to build community and foster connections with other queer people on campus.”

American Association of University Women at OU

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) at OU is a student organization that promotes equality for women, particularly in professional settings.

Hannah Moore, a sophomore studying applied nutrition and the secretary for AAUW, said the organization initially focused solely on women in STEM fields; however, it has expanded to encompass all women in academia.

“We think it's really important to support women because women are disproportionately represented in almost all majors – especially STEM fields in the workforce – and only make up 28%, along with one in five female undergrads reporting sexual assault, while they are going through their education,” Moore said. “There's a lot of barriers in our way. And a lot of people don't notice them anymore if they're not educated on the subject. But that doesn't mean that the glass ceiling still isn't there. And we really just want to help support women as they start their journey into education and then into the workforce.”

Through being a part of AAUW, Moore said she has formed strong bonds with fellow women who share similar hardships.

“I love the support,” Moore said. “Being a woman in STEM myself, I very quickly realized, once arriving here last year, that there was that disproportion of being representative in many of my classes. And so I really just (enjoy) the support of women wanting to be there for each other, supporting each other when things happen and knowing that there's someone there for you who's going through the same things you are. And I think having that community of strong women is life changing for women who are starting their educational journey.”

AUTHOR: Lauren Serge
EDITOR: Riley Runnells
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai
ILLUSTRATION: Olivia Juenger
WEB DEVELOPMENT: Anastasia Carter