Deep in the corners of the Gallagher Center, are an array of offices that offer amazing opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. This is exceptionally true for one office. This office – the Office of Multi-Cultural Affairs (OMA) – and the woman in charge – Averl Harbin – are making enormous changes throughout Niagara University. Harbin, also known as “Boss Lady,” is the catalyst behind some of the biggest events and activities on campus.
As the Director of Multi-Cultural Affairs, Harbin is responsible for the daily operations of the office that include — but are not limited to — the creation, facilitation, and assessment of educational and co-curricular activities which promote a multicultural learning community. To Harbin, multiculturalism is the interdisciplinary company and support of different ethnicities and cultures in society.
“We want to allow students the opportunity to learn about cultures unlike their own,” Harbin says. “With respect to their own cultures, it should be something that students, faculty and administration are willing to participate in.”
Before she worked at NU, Harbin participated on several committees at SUNY Fredonia including the Affirmative Action Committee, the Student Diversity Committee, and the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship Committee, in addition to many more.
“My work ethic has not changed that much,” she says enthusiastically. “It was a bigger school, but here, I’m able to challenge myself and students who may be interested in discovering different backgrounds.”
Harbin has taken a leadership role in many campus-wide events, including MLK week, Hispanic and Black heritage celebrations, organizing an NU fashion show, as well as bringing the great Dr. Bernice King to speak on campus. She mentions that these events and activities are designed to advance campus engagement around diversity to ensure that the voice of students from diverse backgrounds are heard.
Harbin actively encourages students to get involved on campus with the office by participating and planning events. She encourages students to reach outside of their comfort zone by performing and sharing their talents. She also hopes to educate students, faculty and staff about different cultures and ethnicities throughout the Niagara University campus. Harbin is dedicated to creating an inclusive atmosphere at this university, and will continue to do so in the coming years.
In the span of 2 short years, Harbin has changed the cultural atmosphere of Niagara for the better. At a time when the country continues to face hardships and divisiveness, Harbin is determined to bring awareness to people of all different backgrounds and cultures.
“We have a lot more planned for this year,” Harbin says. “There’s also a lot in store for the next year that I not only hope educates people, but will also bring people together at this university.”
Article and photo by Gabi Jackson – PRSSN