Facilitator Mark Orbe talks to the SIDE group

Photographer: Ben Siegel


SIDE participant Tasha Attaway makes a point to the group

Photographer: Ben Siegel

side, villegas, robinson

LGBT Center graduate assistant Megan Villegas speaks with Zanesville Campus student Douglas Robinson

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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SIDE diversity training changes lives of participants

For the fourth consecutive year, the Ohio University Summer Institute for Diversity Education (SIDE) positively changed the lives of its participants forever.

Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis and interim Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion David Descutner encouraged the attendees to embrace diversity and thanked them for participating in SIDE.

Upon completion of the four-day training, all 27 participants received a certificate in diversity training and three continuing education units (CEU). SIDE, which is sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, has trained more than 100 people since its inception in 2010.

SIDE is led each year by Western Michigan University Professor Mark P. Orbe, an internationally known educator, author and consultant. The 30-hour curriculum is designed to empower and train participants in the art of effective diversity programming through individual and group exercises.

Orbe said this year's group was the most diverse in his four years of facilitating the training. Among the attendees were faculty and staff from Athens Campus, Southern Campus and Hocking College, as well as employees from several local organizations.

"Outside of the first group, this is the largest group we've had," Orbe said. "Probably across all areas of diversity, it is the most diverse. Regarding age, we had two undergraduates, people in their 60s, a large LBGT presence, people with disabilities and people who work with people with disabilities. We also had diversity in race, ethnicity and nationality, which makes it real exciting and also challenging."

One of the undergraduates was Doug Robinson, a senior communications studies major from the Zanesville Campus. 

"When I heard about SIDE I thought it would be great and influential," Robinson said. "So I applied for a scholarship and received it. I have learned so much helpful information during the sessions and learned that everyone is different and we should accept and affirm everyone's differences."

Lora Rawson, manager of professional development programs at the Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, said she learned a lot of things about facilitation at SIDE that she will use in the trainings she facilitates. 

"I was uncomfortable for a day or two in the beginning of the training as a white woman, but now I will have a more mindful thought process when I experience people of color or people of diverse cultures, races, and ethnicities," Rawson said. "Now I have a better understanding of how they (multicultural people) must feel. I worked very hard to get where I am, but if others feel that I got where I am because I am white then that negates that."   

Nina Queen, a student services specialist at Ohio University Southern Campus, said SIDE will help her communicate better with the international students on her campus. 

"It's great to learn different ways of dealing with certain situations and the interactions with the other SIDE members have helped me understand things better," Queen said. "I had wanted to attend SIDE for four years and I finally was able to come, so this is very exciting." 

Kim Brooks, a senior library associate at Alden Library, said she has always been interested in diversity and appreciates and embraces it. She said it became even more important after her 11-year-old son was recently diagnosed with autism.

"I need the world to be more open, accepting and inclusive to his very high functioning," Brooks said. "Diversity has become a passion for me since then. He is very bright, but he has a lot of eccentricities. I need people to see that there is more to him than what is on the outside and that is true of all human beings. I have always loved diversity, but it's personal now."

Erin Bowald, an educational specialist who works with people with disabilities at Hocking College, said SIDE showed her that she didn't know as much about diversity as she thought.

"I realized that I may have been inconsiderate at times to others when I wasn't trying to," Bowald said. "I also leave with a feeling of companionship with the other people in the room. This is a great class for anyone to take." 

Orbe said there had been discussions earlier this year of making SIDE a biannual event, but the large class proved that the interest is still there to have the program every year. 

"Ohio University, specifically David Descutner, made sure the cost was not prohibitive and really minimal for a 30-hour training," Orbe said. "That makes it more accessible. As an alumnus, I really applaud the University's efforts and I'm proud to be associated with the program."