Keelon Hinton

Marshall Professor Keelon Hinton talks to the students during the Jan. 10 training

Photographer: John Clarke

ambassadors-table

Ambassadors (L-R): Adrianna Mauzy, Preselah Seymore and Sasha Estrella-Jones listen to Keelon Hinton's presentation on Jan. 10

Photographer: John Clarke

Multicultural-Student-Ambassadors-group

Ambassadors (Front, L-R): Preselah Seymore, Alexis Apparicio, Shoshana Blair, Claire Seid, Sahuaro Marzolf, Adrianna Mauzy. Back (L-R): Gabriela Clarke, Marcus Cole, Nile Harris, Theresa Wilson, Sasha Estrella-Jones

Photographer: Emily Matthews

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Multicultural Leadership Ambassadors ready to launch second year

Students chosen to initiate diversity conversations across campus


The 2015-16 Ohio University Multicultural Leadership Ambassadors met for the first time on Jan. 10 and are prepared to launch into their second year of diversity speaking engagements.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Shari Clarke describes the Multicultural Leadership Ambassadors as a small group of trained peer educators who are comfortable with their own diversity. She said their mission is to eliminate stereotypes while building inclusive, understanding communities through interactive presentations.

Clarke said she created the first version of the Multicultural Leadership Ambassadors at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, more than 20 years ago.

"They are the official student voices for my office," Clarke said. "They represent diverse cultures, geographical regions, sexual orientations, and life experiences. Their purpose is to go out and teach people about their own unique diversity through workshops and conversations."

This year's group has 13 students and includes eight returnees* from the inaugural year. They are: Alexis Apparicio*, Shoshana Blair, Gabriela Clarke*, Marcus Cole, Sasha Estrella-Jones*, Nile Harris*, Karissa Jones*, Sahuaro Marzolf, Adrianna Mauzy*, Tyler Reid, Claire Seid*, Preselah Seymore and Theresa Wilson*.

Marshall University Associate Professor of Psychology Keelon L. Hinton, an expert on the topics of racial identity, multicultural competency, family functioning and black families, was brought in by Clarke to prepare the Ambassadors for their mission.

"Dr. Hinton is very popular at Marshall," Clarke said. "It's very difficult for students to register for one of his classes because everyone's trying to get signed into it. Our students were hanging on his every word."

Clarke said the Ambassadors are trained to define the meaning of diversity and converse with others in a sensitive way. They are also taught how to discuss their unique stories in a manner that will help their audiences realize the importance of diversity in their own lives.

"Dr. Hinton's message about culture was so important," Clarke said. "He told the Ambassadors that our culture is not about our race or ethnicity, it's the religion we practice and the beliefs that we have. It's not the color of our skin, but why we do what we do and think what we think. He said we never leave our culture at the door, it always goes with us. That is so true. The training was a great four hours."

Clarke said this year the Ambassadors plan to start each of their diversity sessions by showing a DVD that addresses current diversity issues.

"The Ambassadors always tailor their presentations to their audience," Clarke said.

Junior Alexis Apparicio said last year went well, but since it was the first year of the program, she and her colleagues didn't know what to expect.

"We started achieving our goal, which is to spread the awareness of diversity, but we didn't know all of the challenges," Apparicio said. "Some of these people have had their mind made up since birth, so our job isn't always to change their mind, but rather open it. We know that we can't achieve all of the important diversity work needed, but we can plant the seed."

Apparicio said this year's Ambassadors have a better working system that will make it easier for them to approach people and conduct ice breakers. She said they also have better conversation starters that will help them meet people where they are.

"Our training today helped us understand how to express our own diversity without preaching to our audience," Apparicio said. "We just want them to know that these are our experiences and our reality."

Junior Nile Harris also is entering his second year as an Ambassador.

"I felt that we had a direct impact on the campus last year and there were times when I could see people's minds changing," Harris said. "This year, I've refined my story and I will be better at conveying my message. As a group, our hope is to reach a bigger audience this year."

Sophomore transfer student Sahuaro Marzolf said that even as a kid growing up in Carbondale, Illinois, he understood the importance of diversity.

"In an ecosystem, you have to have differences in the structure of it in order for it to maintain life," Marzolf said. "For our society to progress, we must work together and respect each other. That is where diversity comes in."

Junior Marcus Cole joins Marzolf as one of the five new Ambassadors. He said he became interested in the program after hearing a couple of his friends talk about being Ambassadors last year.

"Nile and Alexis used to always talk about it last year and I thought it would be a really cool job to tell your life story to others," Cole said. "I believe you can learn more from talking directly to people than from a professor in a classroom. I'm looking forward to telling my story and helping the diversity climate on campus change for the better."

Fifth-year senior Shoshana Blair, a first-year Ambassador who identifies as Jewish, said she will share with her audiences how she became a body positive activist and what that means.

"We love the way we look and are proud of it, no matter what anyone else says," Blair said. "We love ourselves inside and out."

Clarke said the Ambassadors will reconvene for more training on Jan. 24 and are scheduled to make their first presentation of the semester on Jan. 31.

"They have been invited to have dinner with the Ohio University Board of Trustees and they are looking forward to that," Clarke said. "I'm really excited about this group of students and the message of the importance of diversity that they will bring to our campus and community."

To request a visit by the Ambassadors, call the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at 740-593-2431.