Not all minorities benefit from OMED programs

Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern and other ethnic students on campus may be surprised to learn that they are not among the minorities commonly supported by the Office of Minority Education and Development (OMED).

OMED is an Educational Services unit responsible for the academic performance, retention and development of ethnic students who are – as defined by OMED – traditionally underrepresented. While OMED contends that it provides academic support to any student regardless of ethnicity, its primary initiatives deal with African Americans, Hispanics and Native American students.

The U.S. government may consider Asian Americans as a minority but they are the second largest ethnic group at Tech, comprising more than 20 percent of the undergraduate population. As such, Asian Americans do not fall under OMED’s category of “traditionally underrepresented.” Whites represent the majority of students on campus, accounting for roughly 65 percent of all undergraduates. African Americans total almost seven per cent of the undergraduate enrollment, while Hispanic student total just over five percent.

It can be surprising at first to learn that OMED, a service dedicated to minorities, does not consider Asian Americans to be one of its primary targets groups.

The Asian population on campus is not representative of their minority status within the larger, total U.S. population. Nationally, Asian Americans represent less than five percent of the total population. In the science and engineering fields, however, they are not typically considered an underrepresented minority because of their significant presence within these careers.

Among OMED’s priorities are the retention, performance and graduation of students who are under-represented in the science and engineering industries. Traditionally, African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians have been considered underrepresented minorities in these fields because their ethnicities represent such a small portion of the science and engineering workforce.

Each semester, OMED presents its Tower awards to students who have maintained a GPA of 3.0 or higher for several consecutive semesters, depending on their year. Freshmen through PhD students are eligible for the Tower Awards, if they are of African American, Hispanics, Native American or Multi-Racial ethnicity.

Since its creation in 1979, OMED has raised the expectations for student performance and continues to take a business perspective of education, viewing its students as “customers.” They maintain a data-driven, quality approach and the belief that a diverse workplace can only be attained and upheld by a commitment to ground-breaking philosophies that strategically produce successful partnerships and academic performance.

Today, OMED offers a range of services, support, and programs. Focus on Physics, a collaborative effort by OMED and the Physics Department, prepares undergraduates for the integration of Calculus concepts in Physics courses. Study sessions in the Chapin building cover Math, Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and English. A computer lab, appropriately named the Interactive Learning and Academic Resource Center (ILARC) is available to all Tech students, as well as minorities, and is one of the few mixed-use spaces on campus with a study area and a computer cluster in the same room.

Many of OMED’s initiatives are geared toward incoming freshmen. During the summer before their first semester, OMED hosts a five-week summer program known as Challenge, which simulates a typical Tech student’s freshman year. Challenge participants are immersed in Tech’s environment, living in freshman dorms, taking classes, and attending social and academic workshops. The program familiarizes students with Tech academics as well as mistakes and pitfalls that may occur in their freshman year. As an organization driven by statistics and facts, OMED encourages incoming freshmen to earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher their first semester, because of the historically positive correlation between a student’s first semester performance at Tech and that student’s graduation from Tech.