Oregon State University will launch the electronic Multicultural Resource Guide in late September, the first streamlined listing of local businesses and organizations serving underrepresented students, staff, faculty and Corvallis residents.
Eric Hansen, associate director of University Housing and Dining Services and one of the administrative leaders of the project, calls OSU and Corvallis “a fairly white community” and says places like OSU need to take extra steps to make anyone from underrepresented groups feel welcome.
He described underrepresented groups as “people who tend to be marginalized or forgotten in some ways and who may have some unique needs,”
The 2005 OSU Climate Report, available on the Office of Community and Diversity’s website, reported 85.9 percent of participants in its study — including OSU students, staff and faculty — identified as white/Caucasian.
“We get calls all the time” asking for information on local services for underrepresented groups, said Diane Davis, program coordinator for the Community and Diversity office and a lead in the project.
Many organizations have printed their own guides in the past. She said the Community and Diversity office printed its own resource guide on-and-off for many years, but the last printing was in 2005.
“About the time you print these things, they go out of date,” said Davis.
Rather than an index, the guide uses a predictive search feature. For example, after typing “Latino” into the search box, eight suggestions appear. After clicking “search,” 50 results appear, ranging from off-campus restaurants to clinics specializing in Latino healthcare to churches.
Though accessed electronically, users’ search results can be saved as a PDF and printed.
Once approved by website administrators, any local business and organization can add a listing to the guide.
Hansen said the planning for the guide began in 2004 in response to President Ed Ray call for “diversity action plans” from campus organizations. UHDS wasn’t required to create a plan, but the call spurred a discussion on diversity and where needs weren’t being met.
UHDS’ planned guide originally targeted faculty and staff, who were surveyed by the department to determine their comfort level at OSU.
“We had noticed that there were quite a few folks of color who came to OSU (as faculty and staff) but a lot who also left,” Hansen said.
The department also conducted informal surveys of underrepresented students living in residence halls who left OSU after their first year.
Much of the work began summer 2008 with the help of an intern at UHDS, and continued in summer 2009 when Mike Shingle, a 2009 graduate of OSU, was hired as a PROMISE intern by UHDS to act as project manager in order to launch the guide.
Hansen said project’s main committee will continue work through the rest of the summer, and plan to hold focus groups to test the guide’s userability. The electronic feature allows for work to continue into the future, well after the launch.
“The vision for (the guide) is really expandable, and it’s limitless,” Shingle said.
Joining UHDS and the Community and Diversity Office in the project planning committee include the Women’s Center, the Dean of Student Life’s office, International Faculty and Student Services, the Associated Students of OSU and International Students of OSU.
“It’s really a true collaborative effort-true definition of collaborative,” Shingle said.
Contact reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9518 or at firstname.lastname@example.org