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Ally Week aims to build sense of community on Ohio State campus

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A week of encouragement for Ohio State students, faculty and staff to learn and connect with other cultures and identities has begun.

The OSU Student Life Multicultural Center partnered with Residence Life and Greek Life to host Ally Week, a series of programs devoted to student awareness and education of various religions, cultures and sexualities that started Monday.

MCC intercultural specialist Angie Wellman said she started Ally Week as a way for students to connect with those different from them.

“I initiated Ally Week in 2011 as an opportunity to create increased visibility, and an opportunity for underrepresented students to share their stories with the larger campus community,” Wellman said in an email. “There are many students on campus who are really interested in learning more about people who are different from themselves.”

Ally Week seeks to encourage students, staff and faculty to build community with people of different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations or other identities different from their own, Wellman said.

“This year we made a real effort to ensure that much of the information that would be shared would be coming from students sharing their own life experiences with other students,” Wellman said.

The cost of Ally Week, which includes renting program space, facilitating programs and paying for a keynote speaker — poet, actor and playwright Ariel Luckey — is nearly $3,000, according to Wellman, and it is funded by the MCC with human resource support from Greek Life and Residence Life.

Wellman added that Ally Week and Hispanic Heritage Month, both put on by the MCC during September, are splitting the cost for the speaker and rental of the U.S. Bank Conference Theater because “the goals for both programs is similar.”

Wellman expects more than 1,000 students to participate in Ally Week this year.

“Last year there were around 800 students involved in various ways,” Wellman said. “We believe it will grow this year with increased exposure … and also the increased support and participation from students engaged in Greek Life and those living in residence halls.”

Ally Week has several events scheduled throughout the week with students sharing their own experiences, including “How to Be an Ally” and “The View at OSU,” Wellman said.

“The ‘How to Be an Ally’ program is being facilitated by Jaz Mickey, one of the graduate assistants in the MCC,” she said. “‘The View at OSU’ will include a panel of students from different identity groups talking about what their experiences have been like at OSU, as well as providing some insight to how we can all be more supportive of one another and be better allies to identity groups outside of our own.”

How to Be an Ally is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Ohio Union, and The View at OSU is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m., also at the Ohio Union.

Some students said student-led programs are generally more appealing.

“If people your age are doing the programs, you will want to go out and support them and help them, or see why they are so interested in what they are talking about,” said Makenna Richard, a first-year in exploration.

Wellman said the keynote speech by Luckey, which is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Ohio Union, should be one of the most engaging and impactful events for students.

“Ariel Luckey has a really dynamic way of engaging his audiences,” she said. “By mixing spoken word, hip-hop and other mediums, he grabs your attention right away. His performances strike an edgy balance between being challenging, thought-provoking and inspirational … It’s going to be a fast-paced evening that will be sure to interest students from many backgrounds and identities.”

Along with creating more student-led programs, there is also a greater participation from Greek Life this year, Wellman said.

“Greek Life will be hosting parallel programming for the first time during Ally Week, as well as taking the Ally Pledge to each of its chapter meetings on Monday evening,” she said.

Richard said she wants to participate in Ally Week this year in order to become more aware of other communities.

“I think it is a good idea, the program makes you more knowledgeable about the people around you so that you are not so close-minded,” Richard said. “I enjoy learning, and to learn about other people and other cultures for myself would help me not be naive to everything. We all have our stereotypes, so this would be a good way to get rid of them.”

Nicole Koubek, a second-year in business logistics, said she’s considering attending Ally Week programs to learn about diversity and to hear Luckey.

“I think this event is necessary because there is a lot of diversity on campus and around campus and it’s nice to know everyone has somewhere to go and talk about it,” Koubek said. “It sounds interesting, and I would go to see what is was about. I think the poet would also be interesting to hear.”

Wellman said she hopes students walk away from Ally Week with the skills and knowledge to become an ally for others in the future.

“We hope that participants will leave each of the programs with an increased understanding of what an ally is, and what allied behavior looks like,” Wellman said. “It is one thing to call (yourself) an ally, it is another thing to have the skill set and courage to be able to act as an ally. The skills that we hope that folks will gain include being able to recognize and celebrate difference.”

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