OMED Celebrates Three Decades at Tech

The Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED) celebrates three decades of assisting Tech's underrepresented students during Homecoming week.

On Friday, the Georgia Tech Black Alumni Organization (GTBAO) kicks off with the seminar "Diversity in Today's Society" at 9 a.m. in the Global Learning Center, featuring Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Gilda Barabino and Kathleen Bertrand, senior vice president for Community Affairs for the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Homecoming 30th Anniversary Party will be held later that evening at the Twelve Hotel at Atlanta Station, after receptions for the GTBAO and the Georgia Tech Hispanic Alumni Network. On Saturday, OMED sponsors a pre-game tailgate at the Campanile.

Begun in 1979, OMED's mission is to provide programs and services that aid in the retention, development and performance of Georgia Tech students who are traditionally underrepresented in academia. Its services and programs, however, are available to all Tech students.

"This milestone isn't about what we've done," said OMED Director and Senior Partner S. Gordon Moore Jr. "It's about establishing a checkpoint, looking at what we're doing and where we are going."

OMED's success, he says, is based upon a continuous Institutional effort, from the top down. "You don't have something like this, and not have people in the administration help to keep it around," he said. "Crecine added the resources, and [President G. Wayne] Clough reached out to diversity groups and [helped us] continue.

"Tech has had a lot of success with minority students," he continued. "The question is whether the Institute wants to continue to that success, and I believe we do, based upon comments from President [Bud] Peterson and the establishment of the vice provost for Academic Diversity.

"[Peterson] has done his homework. He understands we have experienced growth in [the number] of Hispanic students, but we have fallen behind in the percentage of African American students. It's good to hear the president is concerned the percentages are down. When we look [at underrepresented students in general] in the STEM fields, we're still far behind."

Yet OMED has received significant national recognition for its work with students. In 2004, OMED's Challenge retention program received one of four Lee Noel and Randi Levitz Retention Excellence awards, and in 2007 the organization received a Golden Torch Award from the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

Awards are just one measure of OMED's success. "A good indication we're doing something right is the amount of institutions that call on us," he said, adding that the University of Michigan, Rice University and Purdue University have all approached Georgia Tech to get more information on the programs across campus.

"I think Tech can be the model for academic excellence and inclusion among minority students," Moore said. "The argument of 'equity versus excellence' doesn't work here at Georgia Tech. You have to be excellent to even come here." He also points out that most of Tech's minority graduates have been in the last 15 years. "Critics talking about that or thinking that imbalance [between equity and excellence] exists at Tech really don't know our students."

For now, Moore and the OMED staff will look ahead to helping students achieve their success every day. "I just love what I do," he said. "That's the greatest thing about being in education. Every day I get to see the product. Every day some student will remind you of why you do this. Every day I see the results. I understand the importance of this. It's important to produce those who can produce for themselves."

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.