Hidden underneath the freshman boys’ dorm, Rouzer Hall, and tucked in the corner past the vending machines is the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA) where she sits in her dorm-room size office doing all she can to meet students’ needs and promote diversity all over campus.
As Acting Director of ODMA, Mahlia Joyce does her best to spread, support, and encourage diversity and multiculturalism across the McDaniel campus. A number of students have come to Joyce with ideas to make The Hill a more diverse environment. With her guidance and inspiration, she makes it possible for students to make significant improvements to the college.
“She has inspired and empowered students to change things they wanted to improve and to seek answers to questions that needed resolutions” says Dr. Debora Johnson-Ross, a professor in the Political Science department and a friend of Joyce’s, as well as one of her former teachers.
“She hasn’t been in the office long, but has accomplished a great deal with limited resources and a big heart,” according to Johnson-Ross.
Raised in Westminster, Joyce and her younger brother were brought up by a single mom with help from her grandmother and mom’s friends. At the time, there were very few African-American families in Westminster, so the Joyces were well known around their neighborhood.
“I couldn’t get away with much,” explains Joyce, “because it would’ve gotten back to my mom.”
After high school she decided to stick around Westminster and started attending McDaniel in 1992. Joyce studied abroad in Chili during her spring semester sophomore year, but instead of coming back to school the next semester, she left to follow a career opportunity in Washington, D.C. at the Latino Transitional Housing Partnership. In 2001, Joyce returned to McDaniel to finish her Spanish major while picking up another major in Religious Studies and also working as an Assistant in what was then called the Office of Multicultural Services.
After graduating in 2003, she continued through McDaniel’s graduate program while working as a substitute teacher for Carroll County Public Schools the first year and then moved to The Gateway School in Westminster where she taught Spanish for five years.
In 2008, she returned to McDaniel as the Director of ODMA. During her first year as Director, Joyce was still teaching at Gateway, but was able to give the college her full attention in 2009. Since then she’s barely had time outside of work to do much other than rest and watch television.
Joyce’s personal connection to Westminster is clear. That connection is one of the main reasons that Joyce is so driven to help the students attending now and in the years to come. The programs she sets up spread diversity and multiculturalism while supporting and coordinating student groups that serve the needs of diverse student populations. Her affection for both Westminster and McDaniel College is seen in her everyday attitude and interactions with students.
“She genuinely cares about students,” says junior Andrew Rauch, a student worker in Joyce’s office. “She listens to any student who comes in to talk to her, and she tries to make all students feel welcome in her office and on campus. She has a lot of interesting ideas, and a conversation with Ms. Joyce is always enjoyable.”
The main program that Joyce is involved in is the Multicultural Students Weekend. During this time, Joyce says admitted high school students from a “self-identified multicultural background” get an overnight experience of what life at McDaniel College is like. Some students plan on attending before they come for MSW, while others make their decision based on this weekend. For this reason, it is Joyce’s job to set up the visiting students with host students around campus. These volunteers open their rooms to the prospective students, take them to and from the events, and hang out with them during free time. Most importantly, the student volunteers share their experiences at McDaniel and shed light on both the positive and negative aspects of the college.
Joyce says she usually has a lot of first-year volunteers who came to MSW and say that they “want to share the same experience they had with prospective students.”
Always on the look-out for responsible and caring students to help host, Joyce admits with a chuckle that sometimes she has to beg for their help. Joyce added “we each have something divine inside of us. Most days I try to connect with it, in others and in myself.”