IMAGE:  February 2003 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 3
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Office addresses minority issues
In one of a series of changes designed to improve recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty, a campus organization and a policy board have been created to replace and broaden the activities of the Coordinating Council for Minority Issues (CCMI).

The Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA), directed by Kathryn Stell, JD’86, deputy dean of students in the University, is now responsible for programs focused on minority-student life. The as-yet-unnamed board, cochaired by English professor Kenneth Warren and dean of students in the University Stephen Klass, will oversee all minority issues related to faculty, staff, and students, developing policies for campus-wide diversity initiatives. (For a more in-depth look at black students and faculty at Chicago, see "Minority Report".—Ed.)

“The University wants to focus even more strongly on the needs of underrepresented minority students, with the ultimate goal, of course, that one day they will not be underrepresented,” says Stell, who has chaired CCMI since 1994. “The numbers are low enough that we believe there are outstanding potential students whom we are just not reaching in terms of what the University has to offer.”

The new office, headquartered in the Administration Building, will continue CCMI’s services, including a pre-orientation for incoming minority graduate students; a welcoming reception for all minority students, faculty, and staff; the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration, cosponsored with Rockefeller Memorial Chapel; and the Recep- tion for Minority Alumni and Graduating Students.

Like CCMI before it, OMSA will create strategies for crisis response and intervention. For example, the Minority Student Emergency Contingency Fund currently provides small grants for students faced with a sudden, unanticipated expense.

“A family financial crisis usually has a disproportional, severe impact on minority students, whose families often do not have any safety net when there is a disruptive event such as a death or a divorce,” Stell says.

In addition, OMSA will continue CCMI’s work as a policy and advocacy group for minority students, working with other campus offices and outside groups to gather and analyze data on minority-student recruitment, retention, and graduation.

An informal mentoring program begun last year by CCMI will also continue under OMSA, matching approximately 80 minority graduate-student volunteers with minority undergraduates. Meanwhile, the College has recently launched the Collegiate Mentorship Program. To be housed in the Harper Mezzanine, it will provide intensive one-on-one tutoring for minority students.

Under OMSA, says Stell, these programs have new potential. “OMSA can lead a strategic vision for our programs for minority students that can truly tap the resources of our vibrant community.”

— Peter Schuler



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