Story written by: Karolina Dryndak, Matthew Beyer, and Jada Peters
Many first-year and minority students face struggles throughout their time in college that other students typically don’t have to worry about. There is an individual named Damian Evans who focuses on tackling such struggles.
Evans is the Assistant Dean of students and the director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMSA). He has worked at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside for 20 years, and dedicates much of his time to helping students.
“I provide leadership to a group of people who are developing projects and programs,” says Evans. “I mentor historically underrepresented students.” OMSA serves all students, but the target of the office is to help the historically underrepresented population.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMSA) houses all of the cultural clubs on campus, it has monthly cultural events. It typically hosts three main events each year, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Multicultural Professional Day, and Taking Care of Business Banquet. OMSA’s mission is to connect, empower, and prepare students to be successful. Also, it houses one of the many mentoring programs on campus, called Always Reaching Upward (ARU), which is dedicated to working towards academic and sociocultural success for incoming students.
Being that Evans himself had to overcome many barriers when he was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, he recognizes that there are barriers that minorities face when it comes to higher education, and that is one of the main reasons he wants to help. He believes that simply because a barrier is acknowledged, doesn’t mean that it goes away.
“I had a lot of opportunities for leadership positions and things of that nature, and thought that now that I am given the opportunity to be back, I could help explain some of those things in further detail, specifically to the first generation students … students who don’t understand how those skills become transferable and how they could utilize those opportunities to get other opportunities.” says Evans.
Evans is making a difference in the community by working with committees such as the Committee of Affirmative Action for Human Resources. He is also on a school board for the 21st Century Preparatory School, located in Racine, Wisconsin.
There are also other ways Evans is helping his community, through community service projects. He is involved with the Mary Lou & Arthur F. Mahone Fund, which helps to provide on-campus experience for minority students, and promotes healthy lifestyles in colored communities. Also, Evans is involved with the Powerup College and Resource Fair, which takes place yearly at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He is also involved with the Reaching for Rainbows event, at Carthage College.
“We’ve always just made adjustments along the way… we’ve never really just destroyed and rebuilt,” said Evans. “There is a time for renovation, and there is a time for demolition. There are some principles, rules, and structures ingrained that create barriers.”
Evans believes that one barrier for minority students is the ACT test. Despite the fact that we still use the ACT test, Evans believes that it is culturally biased. He believes that tests are a barrier in general. He thinks that although testing is needed for some specific professions and degrees, overall it is not an effective way to measure a student’s intelligence or potential.
According to fairtest.org, previous research shows that certain students have an unfair advantage when it comes to ACT testing due to their race, class, and/or gender. It also claims that the ACT test itself has a biased format, and uses biased language.
For first-generation college students that are a part of a minority group, OMSA may be a great resource. Talking with individuals in the community and safe spaces such as OMSA, can help students feel more open, at ease, and comfortable.
Evans has an office that is temporarily located in financial aid, which is in Wyllie hall. Once renovations of Wyllie hall are completed this summer, his office will be located in D182. His door is always open for students who feel as though they are struggling with their transition to college.
Citation for ACT data: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing (2007), The ACT: Biased, Inaccurate, and Misused, retrieved from: https://fairtest.org/act-biased-inaccurate -and-misused.