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ODU Residence Hall Director Selected to Receive Multicultural Education Award

Growing up in foster care on Long Island, Atiya Jackson was inspired by her high school basketball coach, who became a mentor.

After high school, she went to Southern Connecticut State University for her undergraduate degree. She also ended up earning a master's and eventually made her way to Old Dominion University for a job as a residence hall director with the Office of Housing and Residence Life.

Her life experiences, of growing up without her parents and learning to make valuable connections in high school and college, have helped fuel Jackson's passion for helping people.

Jackson, 29, was recently awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Multicultural Education Award from the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) - College Student Educators International, in recognition of her service and professional contributions to the association and higher education.

"I just love helping students," she said. "I have a passion to work with students and help them grow."

Jackson will receive her award at the ACPA - College Student Educators International conference March 26 in Baltimore.

At the Powhatan Apartments, Jackson handles myriad duties. For her, the best part of the student residence complex is that it feels like one big, diverse family.

"We have athletes, the football team is here. We have the Greeks (fraternities). We have international students. But everyone comes together and learns from each other," Jackson said. "You really get a sense of the diversity that ODU has to offer."

Carole Henry, ODU's executive director of Housing and Residence Life, said Jackson is a fantastic employee.

"Atiya has been a great asset to the Housing and Residence Life team and the student population through her commitment to diversity. Students are attracted to Atiya not only as a resource but as an advocate," Henry said.

In the past three years, Jackson has watched firsthand the growth of ODU into a residential campus, offering more services than ever to help students adjust to college life and achieve success in and out of the classroom.

Jackson has played a part in that process herself. Last year she organized "The Tunnel of Oppression" at ODU, a learning exercise - originally done at the University of Western Illinois - where students walk through a tunnel and learn interactively about issues and challenges that college students sometimes face.

ODU's second annual Tunnel of Oppression is being organized for Feb. 2-4 in Webb Center, from 6-9 p.m. This year's topics include cyber-bullying, socioeconomic inequality, sexual assault, substance abuse, religion and mental illness.

As students walk through the tunnel, they will be surrounded by thought-provoking images, words and scenarios designed to challenge their ideas and perceptions.

Like all residence hall directors, Jackson is always on duty, always on call to deal with the many issues today's students face. The thing that helps her is having such a fantastic staff, she said.

"We are like a big family. We are such a close group."

This article was posted on: January 26, 2011

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.