SIDE-John Schmieding

John Schmieding, chair of the Athens Community Relations Committee, speaks during the training

Photographer: Emily Martin


SIDE group talks during Thursday's training session

Photographer: Emily Martin


Hocking College's Molly Watson raises her hand to speak

Photographer: Emily Watson

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SIDE adds community members in second year

Participants received diversity training certification

Ohio University's second annual Summer Institute for Diversity Education (SIDE) had a different look this year – it added an Athens community component.

This year, the 23-member class included City of Athens Chief of Police Tom Pyle, City of Athens Assistant Service Safety Director Ron Lucas and John Schmieding, chair of the Athens Community Relations Committee. In addition to community members and members of the Athens campus community, the class also included faculty and staff from OHIO regional campuses and nearby Hocking College.

Last year, the inaugural SIDE training class comprised about 25 Ohio University faculty, staff and students.

The idea for SIDE was created in 2009 amid discussions between Vice Provost of Diversity, Access and Equity Brian Bridges and Mark Orbe, an OHIO alumnus who serves as a professor of communication at Western Michigan University.

Orbe, a nationally renowned educator, author and consultant, said the goal of SIDE is to gather people together who are interested in being diversity advocates and creating a network across not only the Athens campus, but the regional campuses and the surrounding communities.

Orbe said the inclusion of community members worked out great, but he wasn't sure that would be the case when the training started.

"I was concerned because last year's training went so well and I thought that we might not have the same level of commitment or intensity or the same kind of experience this year, but this has been amazing," Orbe said. "The training is always different according to who is here and the set of experiences in the room. It (the training) has really gone to another level."

Pyle said he signed up for the training because diversity is one of the most important issues for law enforcement and probably the most undereducated area for new law enforcement officers.

"I have recognized for years the need to put diversity at the forefront of law enforcement issues," Pyle said. "During the training, I found out that there are some deep-seeded concerns about law enforcement in the community to tear down in order for us to be effective. I see this training as an opportunity to start down that road."

Orbe said Pyle's presence was both encouraging and significant for the Athens community.

"The fact that the chief of police was here speaks volumes to his commitment to not only diversity, but also to campus and community relations," Orbe said. "His presence has blown people out of the water in terms of their existing perceptions about the division between the campus and the community."

Lucas said the training has inspired him to make a difference in the community. He added that the City of Athens will offer diversity training to its employees this fall.

"The training allowed me to reflect on myself and let me know that I can make a difference," Lucas said. "Now I feel comfortable stepping outside the norm. We can all communicate with each other if we are willing to take a chance."

During the training, each participant created a professional development plan that details how they will use their diversity training in the future. After completing the intense four-day training sessions, each participant received a certificate in diversity training and three continuing education units (CEU). A January follow-up session will allow participants from the first two classes to assess their post-training diversity work.

Orbe said he is excited to see what next year brings.

"We plan to expand SIDE by inviting more people from the region," Orbe said. "That is our vision – to keep it growing and make our impact larger and larger."

According to Bridges, next year's SIDE training will be advertised in West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania for the first time.