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A student discussing their opinion on a question during supporting BIPOC women hosted by the Outlet, in Living Learning Center at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, on March 21st, 2023.

The Outlet celebrates, provides support for BIPOC women on campus

Women's History Month has Ohio University's campus bustling with programming. A hidden gem in the lineup of events was the conversation hosted by The Outlet on Tuesday evening about supporting Black, Indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC, women. 

The Outlet is a Housing and Residence Life program that works to serve as a safe and productive space for BIPOC students on campus.

The program is supported by two graduate assistant care coordinators, Cierra Smith-Carter and Diamond Allen. Both Allen and Smith-Carter graduated with bachelor's degrees in May 2022 from OU and returned as graduate students. Now, the pair are earning their master's degrees in social work.

The organization hosts biweekly meetings to foster community and connection among BIPOC students. 

"We saw a need for a space for BIPOC students within housing and whoever really to come (and) just have a safe, comfortable space where we can talk about different topics and experiences that BIPOC students have here," Smith-Carter said.

This week's conversation explored legacy attendees, specifically how they hoped to leave an impact, how they would achieve their goals and the meanings of sisterhood and connection, among other topics. 

Amari Thompson, a freshman studying political science, really took the conversation head on, noting her experience as a BIPOC student in the College of Arts and Sciences and generally on campus. 

"I just want to make my name known and stuff," Thompson said. "I don't want to just be a regular student on campus, that's why I try to get out on campus and go to events."

Throughout her points, she honed in on academic advising and its role on campus. 

"I signed up for the Advising Center to tell me what I can do with my major," Thompson said. "We don't always know (the different directions our career paths can take)."

BIPOC students are presented with additional challenges as they navigate an education at a predominantly white institution or PWI. Still, there are so many resources, such as the Advising Center, to support their matriculation. 

Spaces such as the Office of Multicultural Success and Retention, the Multicultural Center and the International Student Union, among other campus organizations and offices, provide support to BIPOC students. 

The Outlet was started during the fall semester as a direct response to racist events on campus within residence halls in the spring of 2022. Many BIPOC students were left feeling unsafe and unsupported on campus.

"We felt it would be very important for students to feel supported and have that space where they didn't feel judged, but they felt heard," Allen said. 

The Outlet's affiliation with Housing and Residence Life allows it to connect students with university staff. Allen and Smith-Carter often act as a bridge of communication between students and staff due to the nature of many discussions they hold. 

"It's not about us lecturing at people," Smith-Carter said. "It's about them having that discussion themselves, even if we kind of have to draw it out of them because it can be uncomfortable talking about some of the topics that we do."

Despite the importance of these events, attendance heavily fluctuates. Both Allen and Smith-Carter encourage more Bobcats to attend their meetings every other Tuesday in the Living Learning Center, room 102/104. 

The next meeting will be April 4, and consist of a panel discussion with upperclassmen students. 

Overall, The Outlet is a great opportunity for BIPOC students to gain support, mentorship and confidence. 

"I know how hard it is to reach out and ask for help," Allen said. "A lot of times it's easier to struggle with somebody versus struggling by yourself."

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