Students, faculty, and staff on the campus of The Ohio State University at Newark and Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) are learning about diversity by reaching out to each other. The multi-year Exploring Differences, Voicing Respect campaign used four phases to bring awareness to the similarities and differences among those on campus and to teach respect for one another and the world around us.
The campaign was organized by several Ohio State Newark academic units including English, geography, sociology and history; the cost-shared offices of student life and human resources; Ohio State Newark's Office of Retention; and the COTC AmeriCorps college completion coaches.
Phase I of the campaign gathered student response to the question "What does respect mean to you?" via social media. Phase II emphasized the importance of words. It pushed people to look at how powerful their words are when interacting with others. It also asked for anonymous submissions of words students found disrespectful. Phase III brought awareness of how language can be harmful and affect people.
"I got involved in the campaign to help raise awareness about the impact that words and actions can have on people, especially our students," said Justin Khol, coordinator for student involvement. "It was important to shed light on intent vs. impact. Whether on campus, in class, at lunch or on social media, taking time to reflect on the impact of words and actions is critical to achieving social justice."
The recently completed Phase IV included a written piece, "Voices of Diversity at Ohio State Newark" from Dr. Elizabeth Weiser's English 4150 Cultures of Professional Writing class. The essay looked at the lives of students who represent the diversity on campus and the respect or disrespect they've encountered.
"We wanted to show that 'diversity' came in many forms, and that it was important to everyone on the campus to feel that this was their place, they were respected, and that everyone together is part of 'us' there is no 'them'," said Weiser.
"The 'Voices of Diversity' piece educated me about the rich cultures and experiences that every individual has," said student Emily Hankinson. "I'm now more aware of how similar we all are despite our differences."
Phase IV also included training sessions for students, faculty and staff. Participants read 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say, which looked at how communication can widen the diversity gap due to unintentionally disrespectful statements.
"As part of Phase IV of the campaign, it was very important to bring discussions about difficult topics," said COTC AmeriCorps College Completion Coach Lauryn Platt. "It has brought an awareness to the campus community on how we, as individuals, can make improvements through the actions we take."
Lastly, participating students completed a project that encompassed the meaning of respect whether it is through words or actions. They were then required to present what they learned to an audience.
Students Josh Flickinger and Brittney Dodrill completed community service to learn about respect for the world around them. Flickinger worked with local 4-H groups to gather winter apparel for donation to the Salvation Army. Dodrill volunteered her time during winter break at a local assisted living center. The two presented how such service shows respect to the community and those in need.
"It helped raised awareness of the fact that you can do a little more in your everyday interactions with others to show respect," said Flickinger. "It's as simple as holding the door open or saying 'thank you'."
"The project made me more self-aware about how we treat others and what we can do to improve it," said Dodrill.