Western College for Women alumnae gathered during the 2019 reunion weekend.
Western College for Women alumnae gathered during the 2019 reunion weekend.
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A $25,000 gift from the Western College Alumnae Association to help support Miami’s diversity initiatives

A $25,000 gift from the Western College Alumnae Association will help support the work of Miami University’s newly created President’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.

The alumnae association’s board unanimously voted to support the diversity and inclusion initiatives announced by Miami University President Greg Crawford.

During an Oxford community June 8 vigil for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and Tony McDade and many, many others, President Crawford said, “We will institute deliberate, progressive, sustainable change. We will take action to build upon and add to future efforts.”

Toward this end, on June 16, President Crawford charged a task force to take action and explore new avenues for transformative change. The task force charge stands on five pillars collectively designed to build a more inclusive, diverse, inviting, safe and welcoming climate.

Task force co-chair Anthony James said, “We thank the Western Alumnae Association for their generous support to the Miami University community. More specifically, their gift helps to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in a significant way.”

The association members of Western College see this time as a pivotal moment to take action against racial inequity citing their rich history of advocacy.

“This gift underscores our trust of President Crawford and his commitment to make critical strides toward this purpose,” said Fran Hoffman (WC `65), vice-president of the association’s board of trustees. "Social justice and civil rights are key elements of our Western heritage and legacy.”

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A memorial stands where nearly 800 students from around the country trained for the civil rights initiative known as Freedom Summer in 1964 (photo by Scott Kissell).

Rich history of advocacy

Oxford’s former Western College for Women, located on Miami University’s campus, provided housing and meeting space for the civil rights initiative known as Freedom Summer in 1964. Nearly 800 students recruited from around the country were trained by the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, Congress of Racial Equality and other organizations to go to Mississippi to teach in Freedom Schools, build community centers and register African-Americans to vote.

“The power of Western College as a place was that it inspired students to think critically, to generate and examine ideas, to engage with difference through intercultural living, study and travel, to be adventurous and hospitable, and to enjoy freedom with responsibility,” said Janet Smith Dickerson-Stephens (WC ’65), president of the association’s board of trustees. “We also were encouraged to take meaningful action and ‘let our lives speak.’”

Western merged with Miami University in 1974 and became a nationally known leader in the field of interdisciplinary education. In its new institutional home in the College of Arts and Science, the Western program continues to draw inspiration from its predecessors, aiming to honor the intellectual legacies of Western College and the Western College Program and to build a diverse community of learners from around the university.

In 2019, The Western Center for Social Impact and Innovation was created to encourage students and faculty from every subject area to explore complex questions and seek solutions with community partners in the public and private sectors.

Smith Dickerson-Stephens added that with the gift to the task force “we demonstrate our commitment to racial justice. We also hope to stimulate our allies and partners, including Miami alumni and members of the greater Oxford community, to contribute to President Crawford’s ambitious initiatives and to support the work of the university’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.”