The Office of Minority Student Affairs and the Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African- American Studies hosted a welcome reception to introduce incoming freshman and other interested students to both institutions on Sept. 20.

The reception included speeches by OMSA director Norm Burnett and Director of the Frederick Douglass Institute Larry Hudson. Burnett’s speech centered on OMSA’s aim to give students a place to go to connect with other students.

Hudson discussed the Frederick Douglass Institute’s goal to provide a formal major in African American studies, as well as the internships the institute provides.

“Traditional teaching methods are the best way to go,” said Hudson, “but we really like you to get hands-on experience.”

He also presented the Frederick Douglass Undergraduate Prize, given to the individual with the best undergraduate research paper in the field of African and African American studies. This year the award went to senior Amy Shatsoff for her paper “Olaudah Equiano in the Atlantic World.”

The reception also featured a traditional Iroquois Thanksgiving given by Site Director of Ganondagan State Historic Site G. Peter Gemison, and a historic reenactment by Dr. David Anderson, founder of the oral history group akwaaba, which means ‘welcome’ in a dialect of Ghana.

Anderson gave a monologue based on writing by Frederick Douglass concerning his meetings in Rochester with John Brown and Shields Green directly before the Harper’s Ferry incident. The re-enactment brought to life the emotions and conflict Douglass felt about the incident.

Anderson believes it is important UR students be aware of the history that took place so close to the university.

“Every generation needs the lessons of the previous generations,” he said.

Students were impressed with the presentation.

“I really liked the re-enactment,” freshman Megan Jean said. “It was ? wow.”

Other students felt that the reception was a positive way to start the semester. “I was really impressed because they didn’t have this my freshman year,” junior Alexis Leslie said. “This seemed like a good atmosphere, starting the year off on a good note.”

OMSA works as a support service, which promotes diversity and awareness throughout the UR community, and provides diversity training for all its staff members.

OMSA also sponsors the College Diversity Roundtable, an organization that acts as a conduit for thought on diversity issues. It also provides training and resources for those that want to focus on cultural awareness.

Another major aspect of OMSA is its Higher Education Opportunity Program.

“The goal of HEOP is to make an education at a private, independent college available to kids that meet the academic criteria,” OMSA Assistant Director Yvonne Bilinski said.

The office also coordinates events that bring in speakers to broaden the cultural horizons of the UR community. This November, Native American musician Tonemah will perform in celebration of Native American heritage month.

The events and services coordinated by OMSA are provided for the entire UR population. “We’re not geared just toward minority students, the programs are for everyone. We do embrace this sense of global community,” said Belinski. “We want to make students’ educational and extracurricular experiences the best it can be, for all students, not just minority students.”

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