By Rachel Gobep
Ani Solomon began her position as the assistant director of diversity programs at Youngstown State University in July and said she her main goal is to support every student’s needs and make their experience at the university positive.
“My passion has always been really celebrating my student populations and pushing them to think about who they are, the identities that they hold and the identities of the people around them,” she said.
According to Erin Driscoll, director of student activities, Solomon’s position was created to add a “new dimension” to the programming offered by the Office of Student Activities and the Division of Student Experience.
“Our desire is to present programming which exposes students to stories, experiences, and traditions that may be different from their own, challenges students to reflect on their own perspectives, and provides opportunities to build community among students through new shared experiences,” Driscoll said.
She said that data from recent campus-wide student surveys and the Noel Levitz National Survey of Student Engagement show that YSU is in need of additional experiences and conversations to promote the inclusion of all students.
“Hopefully, we can start putting in a strong foundation for diversity education and diversity programming to grow,” Solomon said.
Driscoll said Solomon’s position could also help to “create an environment which promotes, values, and invites a diversity of thoughts and experiences.”
“It is our hope that through an intentional variety of programming topics and styles, we can play a part in shifting the culture of our campus, to break down barriers and create a stronger community and environment which supports the success of all of our students,” she said.
Solomon is originally from Ohio and received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and her master’s at the University of Toledo.
She said she began to think about what she wanted to do as a senior at BGSU and realized she loved being in a college setting — Solomon said she fell into student affairs through this.
Solomon said she met her wife while at the University of Toledo and they were looking for an area that had great Ph.D. programs and a good university where Solomon could work — this led them to Omaha, Neb., where they lived for five years.
She said she likes to see students transform during their time in college.
“I love watching students go from the timid first-year student to a really confident, educated adult as they walk down the commencement aisle,” Solomon said.
Solomon’s wife ended up at Kent State University, which led Solomon to look for programs in the area. She said she is really lucky to now be the assistant director of diversity programs at YSU.
She said she is different because she comes with a new outlook on things.
“I think sometimes it could be easy to get into a rut of your job and you forget to look outside … I think myself being new really helps see that. Just like a brand-new student, I’m learning [the] campus,” Solomon said.
Driscoll also stressed the importance of outside perspectives.
“Here at YSU, many of us have been here for a long stretch of time,” she said. “And while we may be aware of the challenges that our campus and our students face, it can be easy to be so caught up in the history or the way we do things at YSU that we struggle to see alternative ways of approaching a problem.”
Driscoll said Solomon has a mix of characteristics including her educational background, knowledge of diversity and inclusion and professional programming experience that will enable her to make an impact as the assistant director of diversity programs.
“Not only will [Solomon] provide a breath of fresh air with great new programs for our students, she will also ask questions that lead all of us to reflect in new ways on our students’ experiences, and help open our eyes to new opportunities to bring our students together in meaningful ways,” Driscoll said.