Earlier this year, President Comerford released a tentative strategic plan schedule that outlines the priorities Otterbein plans to tackle within the next few years.
One of the main takeaways from the plan had to do with inclusion and equity for Otterbein and the Westerville community.
The first initiative related to that takeaway set out by Comerford involves Otterbein's diverse student groups. According to the plan, there will be an encouragement from the Otterbein community to get involved and educated. Also, campus groups who experience underrepresentation will be able to have more recognition through new leadership opportunities.
Currently, Otterbein has several different student groups on campus, such as an African-American Student Union (AASU), International student association (ISA), Heritage of Latino-Americans organization (HOLA) and FreeZone!, which serves the LGBTQ community.
Before the dawn of COVID-19, it was a lot easier for these student groups to grow and represent themselves. Instead of setting up booths and tents around campus, they are now forced to do everything virtually.
To gauge the level of student involvement and wellness of each group, executive board members within the group will hold virtual presentations and timely conversations for other involved students.
The virtual meetings still allow for the groups to measure what they are doing well and what they need help in. The feedback can then be directly given to Prysock, further advancing the assessment in student involvement and inclusion.
As a community, Otterbein can show support for these groups in simple ways.
"We try to tell people that if one person comes to the meeting and brings a friend, the audience is automatically doubled. That word of mouth communication has been the biggest draw-in,” Prysock said.
The other initiative set out by Comerford involves the WeRISE (Westerville for Racial Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Engagement) program. In the 12-18-month timeframe, Otterbein is hopeful to coordinate and establish a partnership with the program.
The WeRISE program is a group of community members from the greater Westerville area that try to connect with similar groups to work together for the common goal of equity.
Due to the continuance of greater racial diversity in the Westerville area, the program figured that it would be a great idea to hire a racial justice officer for the entire Westerville community. The person who would hold this place would help tie in initiatives that other foundations are doing, as well as what Otterbein is doing at the time.
James Prysock, Director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism, was appointed as a key leader for both of these initiatives.
“We have a responsibility that if we are recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, we have to make sure their experience is a productive one,” Prysock said. “We are creating an equal experience for all of our community members, no matter where you come from or how you identify.”
Something that Prysock also hopes to see is an improvement in the relationship with the Westerville Police Department.
“I think the Otterbein Police Department does a good job of going around campus and connecting with students,” Prysock said. “Within the next few years, I would love to see the mending of the gap between Otterbein and the Westerville Police Department.”
In Prysock’s eyes, Otterbein is doing a good job in terms of providing opportunities for students to connect with material that they may not be familiar with.