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Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives supports minority students


A sign listing undergraduate programs, including the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives, stands Feb. 19 in Hodge Hall. KODI's mission is to offer support for underrepresented minority students as well as a place for them to feel welcomed and supported at school. Raegan Walsh

From the William R. Fry Scholars Program to the Kelley Prep Academy, the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives has created many opportunities for minority students within the Kelley School of Business. The office is designed to help minority students adjust to life at a predominantly white institution.

The office offers programming and advising to help students thrive at the business school and IU as a whole, where minority students aren’t as represented as they make up 11% of the class of 2021 business school population. Minority students make up 23.6% of the IU-Bloomington student population, according to IU's Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs's annual report for the 2018-19 school year.

As the only physical space at the business school dedicated to minority students according to the Kelley School of Business website, the office provides services beyond academics. Maqubè Reese, assistant director of KODI, said minority students sometimes feel disconnected from the business school community. The goal of the office is to help create a sense of belonging for students. 

“We are cultivating a sense of community," Reese said. "Our office provides a place for voices to be heard and narratives to be shared. Our students are successful in the classroom, but we want to make sure students aren’t feeling alone or left out.I feel our goal is to offer holistic support to students so they feel a sense of community within the Kelley community,” Reese said. “We want them to feel celebrated and have fun at school.”

KODI serves as a safe space for minority students, especially amid recent instances of prejudice within the business school's walls. Recent examples include racist, sexist and homophobic tweets from Professor Eric Rasmusen, and a letter to the editor from business school professor Benjamin Schultz who argues that diversity does not benefit companies and directly contradicts public research.

The small things are what is most important when supporting our students, Reese said.

"To combat microaggressions you affirm that person, ‘It is so good to see you today,’ ‘you belong here,' those small things really support students to stay,” Reese said.

When recruiting, advisors try to meet students during Direct Admit day or whenever admitted students visit campus. This meeting typically involves both the family and student meeting with staff members within KODI.   

It’s important to build the relationships with the families of underrepresented students so they feel their child will be looked after and supported in this new environment, said Carmund White, associate director of Undergraduate Programs and Diversity Initiatives.

“It’s not because students can’t take care of themselves, but their families need to know there is a place that is going to support them,” White said. “The relationship development is essential for us to continue to get students here.”

Having students feel comfortable just coming in and hanging out is very important to KODI, just to be able to lay eyes on students while walking around the office, White said. It's great to see that students are content and not overly stressed, as there are not a lot of opportunities to check-in with students because of how busy both parties are.

Breana Owens is a senior in the business school and said she has enjoyed the KODI office since before her freshman year of college through her participation in Meet Kelley. While hanging out in the office, she can be found doing homework, talking with fellow business school students or staff, and even napping in between classes. 

The first people Owens met from the office was her former advisor Taryn Thomas and former Director of Diversity Initiatives, Brittani Wilson, who was also in charge of the William R. Fry scholarship group. 

“When I got my call that I received the Fry Scholarship, Britanni came down and had dinner with me and my family,” Owens said.

The relationships built between students and staff are what make the office feel like a family, and that’s what makes KODI special, Owens said. From doing homework together to just discussing issues surrounding being a minority student, she said KODI offers a good support system. 

“KODI has always been an opening and welcoming place to be,” Owens said. “Everyone is willing to talk about your issues and things you may face as a minority student.”

The office is more than just an office for minorities, White said. It seeks to provide support for all business school students.

“We are a community and absolutely open resource for anyone who wants to make use of us,” White said. “We are very much an open-door office. We want you to be able to come in for whatever you need no matter how busy we are.”

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