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embracing diversity When Anna Mae Thomas became the first African-American woman to graduate from BGSU in 1943, two decades would pass before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. It was 26 years until students formed the Black Student Union on campus, and 66 years before Barack Obama became the nation’s first African-American president. For the first half of BGSU’s century of existence, minority students came to campus eager for an education, but they were also realistic. They knew they would receive a quality education, but opportunities for socialization and other campus activities were minimal. Fraternities and sororities were out of reach and programs and services directly associated with multiculturalism or diversity were nonexistent. At the same time, some BGSU students, faculty and staff were ahead of the curve when social and economic justice for minority citizens was just beginning to gain real traction. Chosen to be among “100 of the 10 BGSU Magazine Most Prominent Alumni” during the University’s centennial year, James Tucker Jr. (Class of ’57 and member of the men’s basketball team) recalled a particularly compelling example: “There were many professors and administrators who were committed to providing opportunities for all BGSU students. During a game with Marshall in 1955, I was refused service at a restaurant.” Tucker went on to describe how his fellow Falcons showed their support: “The team ordered steak dinners and left them on the table in protest of the restaurant’s action, and Coach Harold ‘Andy’ Anderson led the protest.” In subsequent years, this sort of fundamental sense of right and wrong, and a growing awareness of the civil rights ethic, led to more and more opportunities for a true university experience for all BGSU students. Today, the Office of Multicultural Affairs offers a variety of programs and services designed to attract and retain diverse student populations and to ensure that multicultural opportunities are available to all students, faculty and staff. Minority students currently comprise about 20 percent of BGSU’s total student population. “Today, we have more than 25 multicultural organizations that students can join,” said Emily Monago, interim director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. She noted that some of the most significant milestones in enhancing diversity were the creation of an Ethnic Studies program in 1971, the addition of Africana Studies in the 1990s and a cultural diversity and international perspectives course requirement for undergraduate degree programs. While minority students make up an increased percentage of the student population, retention remains a primary challenge for this group. “Our biggest hurdle is the retention of minority students,” observed Dr. Bettina Shuford, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. “The retention rate for underrepresented ethnic students from the freshman to sophomore years is about the same as the overall student

BGSU Magazine Summer 2010

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