Officials address diversity issues
What's Your Shade?
Have you ever met James Riley? He's an Admissions Counselor in the Office of Admissions. Great guy ... and a good person to have on your Bookstore Basketball team. He and his wife, Mirella, both graduated with me in 1994.
Mirella is the Director of Alumni Clubs and Student Programs at the Alumni Association and just a few months ago gave birth to a baby girl.
Jasmine is adorable and I have no doubt she will grow up to be a beautiful, bi-racial woman. You see, James is African-American and Mirella is Mexican-American and I tend to get excited for children like Jasmine who will certainly experience and learn about the two wonderful cultures of her parents.
So if my calculations are correct, Jasmine will be a member of the Notre Dame Class of 2022. Well ... maybe. After all, I probably shouldn't assume that just because both her parents attended Notre Dame as students and are now working at the University as administrators that little Jasmine is a Domer-to-be.
However, you might not want to bet against the possibility either. Jasmine may at this very moment be dressed up in Notre Dame gear with the fight song playing in the background. She may even be the star of the next Notre Dame Adidas commercial.
If in fact Jasmine is accepted into Notre Dame and chooses to attend in the year 2018 she could possibly face challenges that some of today's minority students face at Notre Dame. She may encounter discrimination, she may feel isolated from her peers or she might have difficulties finding other students with whom to identify. And neither her dad nor her mom would most likely deny that possibility. They were once students of color at Notre Dame.
Of course, I would assume that the Notre Dame of tomorrow is going to be much different than the Notre Dame of today. The projected demographics of the future should certainly play a role in the make-up of the University in the next two decades. And while the issues of students of color persist more and more people are working harder and harder so that the discrimination, isolation and separation that students of color experience subsides.
How ironic. James and Mirella are two of those people. The professional work that they do may have a direct affect on their own child's higher education experience. And I thought Jasmine was lucky enough just to have them as parents.
As a member of the Admissions Office, James spends a good portion of his time working on the Spring Visitation Weekend for minority students and has done it for the past three years. I am not entirely sure what James' responsibilities entail for the weekend and during the weekend but I am quite sure he probably doesn't get much sleep.
I see him every place I am that weekend — at the luncheons, the functions and the fairs. He picks the students up at the airport, talks to them, gets to know them a little.
I know this weekend is one of the most important initiatives for the Office of Admissions and James treats it like a baby — literally. He's up late at night, gets very little sleep and tries extremely hard to make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong. Heck, if I ever get married and have a baby, I know who I'm going to call to baby-sit.
I can't say I'm sure that James has thought it all the way through, but I have a feeling that he knows one of his babies can affect the other. And I would guess that most people in James' situation, with an opportunity to work on things that can directly affect their own child's well-being and success, would never be committed to a project that he or she didn't believe would have a positive outcome.
Surely, James believes that Spring Visitation Weekend is important for the University and is a step in the right direction. Otherwise, he is either going to have to stop working so hard on that weekend or stop singing the fight song to get Jasmine to go to sleep.
For every story about James, Jasmine and Mirella, I'm certain there is another for Dan, Steve, Cindy, Susan, Mike, Rita, Kim, Alisa, Moira, Michael, Felicia, Paul, Carrie, Bob, Belinda, Jesse, Santiago, Arienne and Richie.
I know all of them work extremely hard, believe in what they do and care tremendously about the students that are a part of their lives and work. The Office of Admissions' staff does their job so that students can live their dreams and the entire staff of Multicultural Student Programs and Services have the utmost respect for them, support them in all their efforts and will continue to assist them in any way we can.
So if there happens to be anyone who doesn't feel the same way, you are going to have to bring it up with Jasmine. And don't forget that mommy and daddy are very protective.
Kevin M. Huie; Assistant Director of MSPS, Iris Outlaw; Director, Adela Penagos; Coordinator and the MSPS staff contributed to this article.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, January 31, 2001