Student wins diversity essay contest

Matthew Holland said he didn’t used to give much thought to diversity. Now, thanks to a class he took at Oregon State University, Holland believes that we are standing on the shoulders of those who have come before us. His beliefs – expressed through his award-winning essay – have earned him one year of paid tuition at OSU.

President Ed Ray presents OSU undergraduate Matthew Holland with a check for next year’s tuition. Holland won a diversity essay contest earlier this year for “This is My OSU: A Destination of Choice.” Holland is an English major. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

President Ed Ray presents OSU undergraduate Matthew Holland with a check for next year’s tuition. Holland won a diversity essay contest earlier this year for “This is My OSU: A Destination of Choice.” Holland is an English major. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Inspired by his philosophy class, Ethics of Diversity and his professor, Lani Roberts, he says that “from slavery to suffrage to civil rights, the road ahead is not as long as it once was, and we must do our part today,”

Holland, a fifth-year English major, entered the “This is My OSU: A Destination of Choice” diversity essay contest during winter term and spoke passionately about the need for all OSU students to take classes such as Ethics of Diversity.

The contest was created by the Office of Community and Diversity to demonstrate a campus commitment to diversity and to get student input on diversity efforts. It invited OSU students to submit a one-page essay outlining their best idea for making OSU a destination of choice for people who are committed to diversity and inclusion.

The term “Destination of Choice” came from one of President Ray’s University Day speeches and the “This is My OSU” slogan was created by the University Advancement office.

“As we move forward on our ambitious diversity agenda, it is clear that we cannot do everything, and we have to develop priorities,” said Director of the Office of Community and Diversity Terryl Ross. “Student voice is our true north. This essay contest has generated some great ideas.”

The contest yielded 101 essays. The identities of the writers were kept anonymous and 37 students, staff and faculty read the essays. Each essay was read by at least five different people. The top five essays were presented to the campus for “American Idol” style on-line voting in May. President Ed Ray, who served as one of the readers, was impressed with many of the essays.

“I’m glad to see that so many people from different backgrounds took time to participate in the contest,” Ray said. “We are looking forward to implementing some of these creative ideas.”

Holland will graduate in Fall 2010, after studying abroad in Chile this fall. After graduation he plans to attend Marine Officer Candidate School and perhaps graduate or law school.

Holland appreciates that OSU is interested in what students have to say, and encourages others to reach past their comfort zone and get to know people and experiences that are different from their own. He encourages others to embrace the opportunity to take Ethics of Diversity and other classes from OSU’s nationally recognized Difference Power and Discrimination program.

You can read Holland’s award winning essay and those of the other finalists at http://oregonstate.edu/diversity/.The Office of Community and Diversity is seeking participants in an “Ethics of Diversity” class which will be taught by Lani Roberts M-Th, 10 a.m.-noon, Aug. 3-Aug. 27. This class is being offered to all OSU faculty and staff, free of charge, as a follow-up to the “This is My OSU: A Destination of Choice” diversity contest. If you are interested in participating, please contact Corrine Gerig at 54-1-737-4381 or Corrine.Gerig@oregonstate.edu by July 24. Thirty people are needed to conduct this class. Space is limited, participants will be selected on a first come, first served basis.

~ Diane Davis

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