To commemorate its 25 years on campus, the University’s Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives held a symposium yesterday as part of a two-part celebration.

OAMI, which funds and partners with student organizations to hold multicultural events, has founded and fostered programs such as Michigan-Pursuing Our Dreams, which helps transfer students from Washtenaw Community College adjust to the University, and Intellectual Minds Making a Difference, a group that brings together students to help close the achievement gap in Southeastern Michigan.

The symposium included speakers, student performances, a faculty panel and a final student panel speaking on behalf of OAMI on how to continue enriching diversity on campus.

John Matlock, associate vice-provost and executive director of OAMI, said the endurance of the program highlights its ability to effectively advocate for minority students at the University.

“The sense of vibrancy to me reflects ongoing commitment from a lot of people who have been involved in this for a long time,” Matlock said. “It also reflects a commitment from the (University). So, often, these programs come and go … not only have we (maintained) our programs and activities, but we intend to increase them.”

Matlock explained that while there was a sense of competition between the many multicultural groups on campus in previous years, each group now works more collaboratively to benefit the University.

“Collaboration is the name of the game. Michigan is blessed in that it has so many units it has involved in diversity,” he said. “We all kind of carve out our niches.”

Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, spoke about the aspects of OAMI that stood out to him during his involvement in the organization for nearly the past two decades.

“I think one of the things we should point out is the uniqueness of this office in higher education,” Monts said.

Monts explained that OAMI interacts with people across the country in order to strengthen academic initiatives.

“There’s no other office I know of that has the mission of OAMI in terms of its strong connection in academic affairs,” he said.

Monts added that he is confident that the University will experience an increase in diversity because of its strong commitment to multiculturalism.

“I believe those that come after us will be celebrating the 50th year of this office’s work in the future,” Monts said.

The symposium concluded with a student panel consisting of members of various cultural campus groups such as the Native American Student Association and the Latino Students Association. The students commented on what diversity means to them and discussed how to increase multicultural connections across the University.

LSA senior Chatoris Jones, a member of IMMAD, said he aims to encourage students to attend events of different cultures.

“We can’t grow (if) we stay in our own community,” Jones said. “You have to be able to experience other cultures, and it’s not just a black and white thing.”

Jones also posed questions to faculty and students in the audience to encourage critical thinking of the University’s diversity and ways to improve it.

“How do we create that cultivating community that is Michigan?” Jones asked. “When we say the diversity of Michigan, we’re not talking about race, we’re talking about ideas.”

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