September 8, 2000

OMEA: Minority Support and Guidance

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Freshmen treading on Cornell soil for the first time usually need some guiding force in the way of a faculty advisor, resident advisor, or even just a friendly upperclassman. Minority students can visit the Office for Minority Educational Affairs where they can find everything from academic advising to financial aid.

“[OMEA] focuses on being an advocate for minority students on campus, and works closely with the administration in looking at the welfare of minority students,” Dalton said.

For 35 years OMEA has provided its services to incoming students and upperclassmen who identify as Asian-American, African-American, Latino or Native-American.

“Regarding recruiting and retention, we don’t actively recruit students,” said Dr. Raymond Dalton, director of the OMEA. “We are involved in student development, with student organizations, and career opportunities,” he added.

OMEA was created out of the Committee on Special Educational Projects which still exists as its own organization on campus, working closely with educational affairs office.

With 29 percent of students this semester qualifying under the state’s definition of minority, both the OMEA and COSEP work with over 3,500 students.

Their primary mission is to let minority students know that there is another source of support they can turn to, Dalton said.

Before any student comes to campus, OMEA sends each minority student a letter listing the variety of programs available to them throughout their college careers.

One of the functions of the OMEA is to “monitor the progress of students throughout their years here,” Dalton said. “[Students] also have that resource [of close monitoring] to ensure retention and graduation.” Although retention and graduation are not the primary concerns of the OMEA, the office works with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to help perform this task.

The directors of the program houses involving minority communities, such as Akwe:kon, Ujaama, and the Latino Living Center, work closely with both COSEP and the OMEA to provide students with a sense of community.

“There is a history of misunderstanding of the program houses, [but in fact they do] contribute to … a strong sense of community not felt on other parts of the University,” Dalton said. “OMEA has … various different receptors to hear student concerns and address them.”

OMEA also encourages upperclassmen to use its facilities, Dalton said. Minority students at all levels of education can find help with financial aid, counseling, academics, learning strategies and work studies programs.

“We are working on a continuing and ongoing effort to diversify the campus,” Dalton said. “We must take a lead [among universities] and be vigilant about doing it. But Cornell has a good record,” he explained.

Archived article by Leonor Guariguata