Last updated: August 25. 2013 6:19AM - 79 Views

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LIMA — Talking about diversity is easy. OSU-Lima is taking the tougher road and actually doing it.“Diversity is everyone's work. We really believe that,” said John Upshaw, school special assistant and chief diversity officer. “It will be a way of life. So when you come here, you understand that this is what we are.”Upshaw's Office of Institutional Diversity has created a volunteer diversity committee to help with the work. The 13-member committee consists of business people and those representing minority populations on campus, including racial minorities, people with disabilities and gays and lesbians. “We believe their experiences, their skill sets, will help us lead the charge in diversity,” Upshaw said.The group has formed subgroups to work on specific things. One is working on retaining students, a problem Upshaw said all universities face. The school will eventually implement the well-known Bridge program, currently on the Columbus campus and others.Students enrolled in the school will spend time on campus, getting to know the school and faculty the summer before their freshman year. Statistics show that students in the program have a higher graduation rate than those not. “It gives them that edge, so when they get here in the fall they have already had some exposure,” Upshaw said. The school also remains committed to having a more diverse faculty and staff, Upshaw said.Another committee is addressing enrollment. The school has seen improvements. Class, racial or ethnic minorities made up 11.3 percent of students last year. That is up to 13.2 percent this year.One way the committee hopes to up enrollment is through a university awareness group that will create programming that brings about the awareness of diversity. The programs and activities, Upshaw said, will be designed to help students, staff and faculty understand diversity.The campus will host Take Back the Night from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The event, which starts in the Reed Hall Auditorium, will feature a male rape victim. The national Take Back the Night raises awareness about and works to end sexual violence.Diversity Committee member Sharon Guice, a retired social worker, believes the group will make a positive impact on the school and community.“It is great to have an university in our community that would embrace diversity and pursue it to make life better for our community,” she said, adding that she expects results. “We want to put our money where our mouth is ... so you see it when you come out here.”To Upshaw, the work is about creating a culture valuing differences and a student body that mirrors the Columbus campus.“We are creating a culture in which diversity is valued,” he said. “It is just what we believe in and work for every single day.”

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