On the evening of Aug. 26, the Office of Minority Education and Development (OMED) hosted the OMED Carnival, an event bringing together sections of Institute Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (IDEI), minority fraternities and sororities, and other inclusive initiatives at Tech to celebrate the beginning of the fall semester.
The three hour event took place on Harrison Square and included free barbeque, games and a raffle. The event’s main feature was the information tables promoting inclusivity-oriented organizations, such as Tech’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and minority-inclusive fraternities and sororities such as the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).
Through the carnival and other promotional programming they have planned for the fall semester, OMED aims to let minority students know they have a support system at Tech.
“Every year we do this as a way to just kick it off and make sure students know that we’re here to support them from the moment they enter campus to the moment they walk across the stage,” said Denise Ocasio Thomas, assistant director of Retention Initiatives with OMED, when describing the purpose of the OMED Festival.
Organizers emphasized the importance of hosting a fun and casual event that is still able to inform the Tech community of resources that are available to them.
The resounding concern from event organizers and volunteers is that many students of minority backgrounds, who are often most in-need of support, are not aware of what resources are available to them.
Inclusivity organizations at Tech must often make a greater effort to gain exposure to the community than other organizations on campus.
The carnival, sponsored by BP, also featured networking opportunities for attendees.
In particular, the networking focused on elevating minority students who have been historically underrepresented in professional settings.
“OMED provides resources academically, professionally and socially, and you don’t have to be specifically a minority student … so we just want to spread the word and help the most people that we can,” said Alexandra Madrid, fourth-year CE.
Organizers and attendees of the event agreed that promoting inclusive organizations includes providing a platform for them to interact with the general student body.
“I love meeting everyone, being able to tell them more about the organization. I joined this organization my freshman year, and it has done so much for me, so I’m really happy to be able to share this with everyone else,” said Sophia Ung, third-year CHBE and the vice president of administration for SWE.
Student reaction to the carnival makes it clear — students are excited to engage with inclusive organizations.
Simply seeing a diverse group of people gathering together piqued students’ interest enough to join the carnival on a whim.
“I was honestly just passing by from the library,” said Sharanya Pillalamarri, third-year CS. “I think it’s just nice to see so many people of color and the diversity.”
In hosting the carnival, OMED aimed to demonstrate the positive impact that finding a community can have on students.
These organizations, in particular, aim to support students who are often dismissed or excluded because of their identities.
“Our job is to promote them and to uplift them and to find people who are doing a lot on campus that other people wouldn’t see their contributions,” said Gabi Nwachukwu, fourth-year AE.
As Tech returns to residential instruction, the importance of meeting students face-to-face is not lost on organizers.
“My favorite part of this event is seeing students engage with one another after coming off a very challenging year with COVID. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to see students engage and smile and laugh and banter,” Thomas said.
Overwhelmingly, students were excited to find a community of people with shared culture, experiences and ambitions, emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
Students who are historically underrepresented, especially in STEM fields, often struggle with feeling at home at Tech.
For these students, finding a community to call their own can be transformative for them, personally, and elevate their college experience.
For more information on OMED, visit their website at omed.gatech.edu to find a contact form, event calendar and other support services offered through OMED.