In an effort to provide greater support for diversity and pluralism throughout the WPI community and beyond, the Office of Diversity and Women’s Programs has been restructured and it recently celebrated its first anniversary as the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
According to Bonnie Hall, director of multicultural affairs, the OMA continues to provide outreach and support to underrepresented ethnic populations and women―but has expanded its scope to include programming that focuses on religious diversity and LGBTQ+ issues. Hall points out that the smaller staff and structure of the former office did not have the “bandwidth” to fully meet the needs of all constituencies.
She says specific goals include fostering inclusion and pluralism across the entire student body, raising awareness of diversity and multiculturalism, promoting a community free of discrimination, and offering STEM-related educational opportunities to younger students.
“Most of these goals are not new, but the vision is broader in that the goal is to better serve all WPI community members,” she explains. A prime objective is to “institutionalize” the importance of diversity and pluralism campus-wide, and infuse it “in the classroom, in marketing materials, in the landscape, [and make it] top of mind across the fabric of the university.”
Hall had been working in a similar capacity (while still associate director of admissions and coordinator of multicultural recruitment) since July 2012, when NaTonia Trammell, then-director of diversity programs, left WPI. After a formal search, Hall was offered the permanent position in December 2012. The restructuring has helped streamline and consolidate the efforts of the former Office of Diversity and Women’s Programs, which, she notes, was operating with two separate directors.
“The restructuring brought about different and increased responsibilities for one director, and the need for two outreach coordinators,” says Hall. “It was important to hire individuals who would be the best fit for the revamped office, given its expanded vision, goals, needs, and institutional expectations.”
The outreach coordinators are Michael Harper and Julia Sorcinelli. Harper’s focus includes students identifying as multicultural, LGBTQ+, first generation to college, and those affiliated with recognized religious entities on campus. A diversity workshop was held during New Student Orientation last fall, and additional workshops are planned for the academic year. The purpose of the workshops is to initiate a campus conversation about the value of cultural awareness and diversity, and its role on campus and in society.
Sorcinelli oversees programs and support services designed to help undergraduate and graduate women achieve their educational and professional goals―and meet their social, developmental, and emotional needs. In August a Women’s Welcome Breakfast featured a keynote address by Nancy Hunter Denney, a nationally recognized author and inspirational educator. Professional development workshops will also be scheduled.
Hall adds that “heritage months” will be observed throughout the academic year. “We kicked off A-Term with the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month [Sept. 15 –Oct. 15] and LGBTQ+ for October,” she says. “The OMA is also proud to partner with student organizations such as The Alliance to support events like the annual Worcester Gay Pride Parade and Transgender Day of Remembrance, which take place during A- and B-Terms, respectively. The OMA will conclude the first half of the year with Religious Diversity Month [December].”.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs can be found at the same location―OASIS House at 20 Schussler Road. The space has been renovated, however, and features administrative offices, lounge, kitchen, and tech suite for use by the WPI community.
Monday–Thursday, 5–11pm; Friday, 5–8pm; Sunday, 5–11pm. (closed Saturday)
- By Mike D’Onofrio