Office of Multicultural Affairs readies to push ahead with goals
|Photo by Joseph V. Labolito/University Photography
|Rhonda Brown, Temple’s first-ever associate vice president of multicultural affairs, and her staff are partnering with other Temple offices as well as outside businesses and agencies to advance Temple’s diversity and expand opportunities for minority populations.
Rhonda Brown’s ideal of Temple University looks something like this:
“I envision a campus where there are no academic departments without minority or female representation.
A campus where faculty and administrators of color come together frequently and work collegially.
A campus where minority students would be more engaged and retention levels increased.
And a campus that creates more opportunities for neighboring minority- and women-owned businesses.
Of course, we’re strong in these areas already, but there is always room to improve.”
Nearly one year into her tenure as the University’s first-ever associate vice president of multicultural affairs, Brown is assembling her staff and readying this blueprint.
Two of the four directors for the Office of Multicultural Affairs are now in place. Sandra Foehl, formerly the head of Temple’s Office of Affirmative Action, leads the compliance and investigation unit, and Tomas Sanchez was recently hired to manage the business relations unit.
“I’m excited to be able to retain Sandy who, with more support and resources, will be able to expand the unit to be much more proactive than it has been in the past,” Brown said. “Tomas will see to it that the ‘old boy’ network of doing business gets dissolved. With so much construction going on around the University right now, we want to be sure that there are adequate opportunities for minority and female workers and business owners.”
Brown is partnering with other Temple administrators in a search to fill vacancies at the top of the OMCA’s two other units, student support services and faculty recruitment retention.
Ideally, Brown said, she will hire these directors by the start of the next academic year.
Still, she is not allowing the vacancies to impede the OMCA’s plans to advance Temple’s diversity and expand opportunities for minority populations.
Brown hopes to roll out several initiatives in the coming academic year:
• The student support services unit will house a mentoring program for incoming students. The aim is to better engage freshmen, especially first-generation college students, with the life of the University by assigning them upperclassmen as mentors.
“These students tend to get lost in the shuffle,” Brown said. “We want to reach out to them early with advice from their student mentors, who will keep them connected to the University. Studies have shown that the more contact students have with administrators and faculty and the more involvement they have in college life, the more success they will have.”
• The OMCA will partner with the Office of Facilities Management to implement an apprenticeship program for minority and female North Philadelphia residents that should supply skilled workers to contractors doing projects on and adjacent to campus. The program will target the eight ZIP codes that encompass Temple, ensuring that traditionally underrepresented populations are afforded equal access to construction jobs.
“As Temple University does well, so should its neighbors,” Sanchez said.
• Another OMCA priority is to shore up Temple’s recruitment and retention of minority and female professors.
“When people talk about the top thinkers of color in the United States, I want them to talk about Temple University,” Brown said. “When people talk about the best in diversity, I want them to talk about Temple University. We can drive the bus that moves diversity in higher education.”
Brown, trained as a lawyer, has made a career of fighting for equal access in higher education. Before coming to Temple, she was the first director of the Office of Institutional Equity at the University of Notre Dame. A native of Coatesville, Pa., Brown was recently honored by her hometown chapter of the NAACP with its Image Award.
She is confident that the OMCA’s plans will further cement Temple’s status as a paragon for diversity in higher education.
“I used to say that I wouldn’t change what I do for a living, only where I do it,” Brown said. “Now I’m not so sure. This might be it for me. This is the right city, the right opportunity and the right time. Temple is poised for an effort like this.”
- By Ted Boscia
|New OMCA directors lay out their plans
The Office of Multicultural Affairs, created last year by the University with a mission to advance Temple’s diversity, now has directors for two of its four units. Sandra Foehl leads the compliance and investigation unit, and Tomas Sanchez manages the business relations unit.
They recently talked with the Temple Times about their plans for their units.
On their goals for OMCA
“As we progress as an institution, the neighborhood should grow up around us, too. We can begin an apprenticeship program that trains minority workers, and then we’ll have leverage with contractors to use these people on their projects. In terms of procurement issues, our list of suppliers and partners should reflect the general population.” — Sanchez
“We will continue to ensure University compliance with civil rights laws and assist admissions and academic programs in complying with these regulations. In addition, we want to use every complaint as a teaching moment to make sure people are aware of these issues. We can also think on a broader scale about education and prevention of abuses.” — Foehl
On their backgrounds
“My experience as chief of staff with Councilman [Juan] Ramos assisting community members in getting involved within the political system will help in this position. One of the other things I bring to the table is that I understand both sides of the situation — I’ve been a business owner struggling to get into new markets, and I’ve also worked on the political side to help people make contacts.” — Sanchez
“I remember being in high school in northern New Jersey and watching as race riots were going on in the South as schools desegregated. They were turning hoses on demonstrators, and I couldn’t fathom why some people wanted to deny people of color equal access. Since coming to Temple in 1973, I’ve been committed to stamping out the vestiges of segregation and ensuring equal participation for everyone.” — Foehl