CORVALLIS - Oregon State University will open three new education offices this fall in an effort to provide a better support system for African American, Hispanic-Chicano-Latino and Asian American students.
The new offices will be modeled after OSU's successful Indian Education Office, which opened in 1991 and has been credited with boosting the university's recruitment and retention of American Indian and Alaskan Native students. It also has strengthened ties between OSU and tribal communities, officials say.
What makes these new offices unusual is that they are being planned by students, according to Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs at OSU.
"These are student-driven initiatives which will make them more meaningful than a program created by the university and thrust upon the students," Roper said. "And the students are doing a great job. They are crafting mission statements and identifying faculty, staff, students and community members as candidates for advisory boards and search committees."
OSU students and administrators say they hope the new offices will help encourage minority students to attend the university, and provide a welcoming environment for them on campus.
Attracting African American students to Oregon State University will be a key responsibility of the future coordinator of the Ujima Education Office, according to Lameka Johnson, president of the Black Student Union at OSU and resource manager for the Black Cultural Center.
"We're really excited about having someone working on recruiting and retaining African American students," Johnson said. "This person will also be a liaison between students and faculty and staff, and provide advising and counseling support for African American students at OSU.
"We want to see our students who come here, stay here," she added.
The name Ujima is one of the seven principals of Kwanzaa, said Johnson, a junior at OSU from Salem. It stands for "collective work and responsibility" and fits in with the center's goals.
It will take a collective effort to draw more African American students to Oregon State University, Johnson said.
"Oregon just doesn't have a lot of African American students and so some recruitment will have to take place out of state," she pointed out. "The office is a good start."
The new Asian-Pacific Islands Education Office has similar goals, said Sokhemry Yi, an OSU senior from Beaverton and co-coordinator of the Asian Cultural Center.
"The office will specifically target students under-represented students of Asian or Pacific Island ethnicity in hopes of recruiting them to this campus," Yi said. "Once these students are here, the office will provide counseling, advising and academic support - and any other support services - to meet their needs."
Yi recently received one of three Frances Dancy Hooks Awards, given annually to OSU individuals or groups demonstrating commitment to diversity on campus. Also receiving awards were Tava McGinty, coordinator of the Black Cultural Center, and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Atzlan, or MEChA.
The Casa Educacional Office should increase the university's recruitment and retention of Hispanic-Chicano-Latino students, according to Adrian Castro, a junior from Lafayette, Ore., and an officer in MEChA.
"One of our goals is to implement a tracking system for our students when they come into the university," Castro said. "It will help us keep track of new students and make sure they are making progress in classes and getting help when they need it.
"Our communities are very supportive of these offices," he added. "It is difficult for the university to recruit our students because we are spread out all over, though there are concentrations in cities like Woodburn and Molalla. The office will provide a visible tie-in with those communities."
Students working on the offices were elected by their constituencies to represent them as voting members of the design team, according to Phyllis Lee, director of Multicultural Affairs at OSU. "They have learned a lot about the work that goes into creating new programs such as these. It does not happen overnight. Yet they are beginning to see the results of their hard work."
Student leaders for the Ujima Education Office are Johnson and Karah Hames, a sophomore from Portland. The Asian-Pacific Islands Education Office leaders are Yi and John Le, a junior from Portland. The Casa Educacional Office leaders are Castro and Eva Galvez, a junior from Hood River.