Four years ago, no one wanted Omega Hollies to be a teacher. The recent Grand Valley State graduate ran around from small job to even smaller job. She filled orders at a local yarn shop one day and nannied a couple young children the next. In the time she had to herself, Hollies checked the web. She hoped every day there would be more than four positions open teaching high school sociology.
A high school never popped up on her server, but Ohio Northern University did.
“This [International Student Services Coordinator] job came up, and it seemed very exciting to me,” Hollies said. “And so I applied for it on a whim, thinking there was no way they’d ever call me because I didn’t really have experience. But they did call me.”
ONU’s Director of Multicultural Development, LaShonda Gurley, was one of the faculty who first interviewed Hollies. Gurley was quick to defend against Hollies’ self-doubt.
She possessed a working knowledge of student development and race and diversity education,” Gurley said. “I was confident that we had found a great candidate.”
Omega Hollies has now been the International Student Services Coordinator (ISSC) for four years. But her passion for students and their development has only grown stronger since she left behind her dream of being a high school teacher.
The ISSC is inherently responsible for helping international students adjust to America and advocating for them when necessary. But Hollies also advises the campus Japanese Student Organization (JSO), World Student Organization (WSO), and Interfaith Leaders Program to broaden her understanding of all student life.
Faculty and students alike have noticed these additional efforts.
Jaekyeong Choi, a third-year pharmacy student from South Korea, has worked closely with Hollies over her time at ONU. Choi appreciates all the work she has done for international students, even mentioning how Hollies’ home is open for students who need a place to stay over Thanksgiving break.
For me, Omega has always been the person that I go to when I need help or just want to talk,” Choi said. “She is always good at listening and giving advice. Although she is a faculty member at ONU, she is also an amazing friend.”
As her supervisor, Gurley especially admires what her past hire has accomplished. “Omega’s knowledge and passion to serve our students and campus community has enabled the Office of Multicultural Development to ascend to the next level,” she said. “We have began the efforts to bring diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice to the forefront of discussions and initiatives on campus that will help shape the campus culture for years to come.”
Hollies has gone the extra distance to relate to students here. She has dedicated time and energy seemingly unmatched by many other faculty and surely unrequired by her general position.
Hollies has obviously found her calling in university administration.
And now she is leaving.
As of October 23, Hollies will move to New York to become the Assistant Director for the Center of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Social Change at Ithaca College. Her boxes will be full of household items, but one item she won’t be packing away is the same dedication to students and their development, which secured her job at ONU four years ago. The difference between the dubious recent graduate she was then and seasoned faculty member she is today, however, is confidence.
“I do feel qualified for it,” she asserted when asked about the new position. “Part of the reason I feel qualified for this job is because it is more of an institutional equity sort of position. So I’ll be looking at how programs and access to different things are or aren’t inclusive, which is of course a big thing that I’m super passionate about.”
Gurley, Choi, and more students and faculty will miss Hollies and her efforts to include and empathize with students. The soon-to-be New Yorker does not seem to be without her own sadness but is focused less on the past and more on the future.
“You sort of have to be thinking more strategically about what you want to do when you’re 50 years-old,” Hollies concluded. “I eventually want to be what’s called a Chief Diversity Officer. CDOs are often implementing policies at the university level or institutional level that are supposed to incite change for campuses.”
A CDO’s office looks a lot different than the classroom of a high school sociology teacher. Save the regular items like trash, sticky notes, and a dry-erase board, they probably look like two separate worlds.
But if anyone has confidence Hollies can make it there, it’s the faculty who hired her and now herself.