Unifying the University one step at a time

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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

Dr. Hope Russell: Addressing the importance of women’s studies at Niagara University

NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y. – Dr. Hope Russell knows a thing or two about the history of women. So much, in fact, that she teaches courses all about it at Niagara University.

Dr. Russell is an adjunct professor of women’s studies at Niagara, and has spent over 12 years educating students on past and present issues regarding women in society. Her courses range from introductory feminist studies to women’s representation in media and literature — each constructed with the goal of exposing young adults to the realities of sexism and inequality in the modern world.

As an undergraduate, Dr. Russell found her calling after taking a women’s studies course at the University at Buffalo. From there, she began to notice a lack of representation in other fields.

“I did my masters in Education and English, and noticed that women were absent, race was absent,” Dr. Russell explains. “It just wasn’t doing the same feminist work I had done as an undergraduate.”

She went on to earn her PhD in Gender Studies, and began teaching at Niagara University in 2004, joining the Women’s Studies department. Now, as she educates an upcoming generation of activists, Dr. Russell works to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn more about the history of women, as well as a brighter future ahead.

“It is so sorely needed,” Dr. Russell says of teaching women’s studies to young adult students. “The way that it opens people’s eyes to important social problems and issues, and the way that it gives names to those things; it provides means in which to advocate and make social change.”

Dr. Russell also plays an important role in Women’s History Month on the Niagara University campus.

“As someone who is on the Women’s History Month planning committee, we work really hard throughout the year to have a number of events for it, especially across disciplines,” she explains.

Last year, Niagara hosted its first ever “Take Back the Night” event, which promotes awareness about sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. Held at the end of March, this event serves as a powerful conclusion to Women’s History Month, and the committee anticipates great success for this year’s gathering.

“Several hundred NU students attended, in addition to faculty, staff, and community members,” Dr. Russell says describing last year’s event. “The interest level and supportive energy surrounding the event, as well as the programming, dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, and student clubs, combined to make it an incredible event. I cannot wait to see what this year brings.”

Dr. Russell is one of many who support the celebration and promotion of Women’s History Month at Niagara University. And, as a women’s studies professor, she knows that broadcasting women’s issues doesn’t stop at the end of March.

“Women’s History Month is incredibly important as it allows the campus community to recognize women’s accomplishments throughout history, and makes important bridges to the present and future,” Dr. Russell says. “I always ask my students what mark they plan to leave on history or what mark they are making, or planning to make, on our college campus.”

Dr. Russell has certainly made her mark on Niagara University, and continues to do so through the courses she teaches and the students she inspires.

-Bridget Cauley, PRSSN