NACOGDOCHES, Texas — During its 25-year existence, the Stephen F. Austin State University Office of Multicultural Affairs has expanded in membership, program offerings and campus-wide interest. But perhaps its biggest success was crafting an indelible space for cultures to come together in celebration of diversity.
“The OMA is at its best when it is able to help bridge the gaps — gaps between campus life and the wider life of Nacogdoches, gaps between races and cultural groups, and gaps between religious traditions,” said the Rev. Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church. “OMA reminds all of us that education is not simply about information but is about teaching us to be with one another, listen to one another, learn from one another and build a more peaceable world.”
Childress’ church has been involved with OMA “for many years,” he explained. “We love its vitality and creativity in the midst of its diversity. Its students are full of idealism, and when you walk into one of its student meetings, the room is explosive with energy. The diversity of student life at SFA is a strength of the university, and the OMA is helping the university build upon it.”
The organization began on campus in April 1992 through the work of student activist Tim Cavitt, according to OMA Director Veronica Beavers. A multicultural center that housed five organizations was developed “to create a sense of belonging for all students.”
Beavers took over as director in 2016 after Dr. Osaro Airen, former director, relocated to Dallas. He led OMA for three years, developing various new programs and garnering support from the Nacogdoches community.
Programs Airen established include the OMA Caucus, Diversity Conference, MLK Celebration, Peace Meal, Multicultural Peace March and Rally, and Consciousness Speaker Series.
“My vision for the OMA coincided with the office’s mission, which focused on creating an environment where all individuals felt welcome,” Airen said. “I enjoyed working directly with students and faculty, staff and community members on creating an environment where not only students felt welcome but everyone who visited the OMA and attended our events did, too.”
Beavers also has implemented new programs during her time as director, including the Brave Space Series and Women’s Empowerment Summit. The two biggest achievements of her time as director, Beavers said, were the implementation of the student ambassador program and the expansion of OMA’s sponsored student organizations.
“My current vision for the OMA is to expand its reach to teaching all the concepts of diversity, multiculturalism and social justice,” she said, “and to educate students and staff and faculty members how to navigate cultural differences. I also would like to offer increased educationally engaging programs and continue to develop our student leaders to be successful after college and further develop our organizations.”
To honor its 25th anniversary, the OMA will host a celebration beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center plaza. The event will include giveaways, T-shirts and a photo booth. A reception will begin at 3 p.m. in Regents’ Suite A featuring performances by student organizations, special guest speakers and food.