Updated: Oct 28
By: Christina Semeraro
In response to student demands, this Spring semester Ohio Wesleyan brought on Alice Mills Mai as the first Black female counselor available for students in several years.
Mai, now a part-time counselor at OWU, comes with a background centered on QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous people of color), oppression, trauma, and other similar areas. Her counseling approach is based in love, curiosity, and nurturing.
Student troubles with counseling services is not a foreign concept on campus for reasons extending beyond a lack of representation, but with the quality of support given as well.
Complaints of students feeling as if they weren’t getting proper help in addition to not being taken seriously frequently circulate campus conversations, making this small change a big step in OWU signaling that they are listening to students.
Autumn Ford ‘23 worked at the forefront of bringing Mai to campus through her position of Vice President of WCSA, alongside President of WCSA Jose Matute ‘21.
Their efforts included meeting with administrators and students to ensure that student concerns were being fully addressed as well as locating funds to support a new counselor. After some convincing, their hard work paid off and they were able to bring Mai to campus.
This new addition to the counseling services is able to offer BIPOC students a resource that wasn’t available to them in the way that it's often needed.
“Sometimes having the extra perspective and having someone you can relate to may be able to offer feedback that others may not be able to,” said Ford.
Ford hopes the new counselor not only allows students to feel more comfortable reaching out for help but also serves as motivation for students to continue advocating for changes they want to see on campus.
She encourages students to utilize WCSA and let it serve as a platform for student voices and connection to the administration. “Since I’ve been in it there's been a real drive to make it more accessible and open and friendly to the student body so that we can serve them,” commented Ford, “because that's the ultimate goal, to serve the student body and get their needs met.”
Now running for WCSA president herself, if elected, Ford hopes to work with the administration to create a permanent position for a Black counselor in the counseling services office.
While there are many more areas on campus where diversity needs to be considered and increased, the new counselor serves as real, tangible efforts by OWU to uphold their DEI Action Plan established in June 2020. As a part of this plan, the university aimed to improve hiring methods and maintain a community that values diversity. The administration hiring a Black female counselor demonstrates an understanding for more diverse faculty, but also a need for support to BIPOC students studying at a predominantly White institution.