Kind eyes and a warm smile are what greet you when you address Mahlia Joyce.
Mahlia Joyce is the Director of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at McDaniel. Unlike the seemingly intimidating title that she holds, Joyce is a gentle spirit with an inviting and pleasant demeanor. Even her dress code, which is usually rich browns, purples, greens, and oranges, exudes the warmth that she possesses.
Joyce joined the McDaniel staff in the fall of 2008 when the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, previously known as the Office of Multicultural Services, was undergoing a lot of changes. At the time of her joining, the college’s administrators wanted the office renamed, restructured and revamped.
“Immediately after she took office, Joyce hit the road running, coming up with new ideas and plans to facilitate these changes,” said McDaniel student Kwei Maduot-Parek, when asked about Joyce’s work. Joyce started by changing the name of the office to Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODMA). The office has an unofficial nickname “ODaMA” which was coined by students who noticed that these were the initials of the office. The name change coincided with the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States.
Recently, the ODMA office relocated from its previous place in the basement of Rouzer to a space now shared with the Office of Student Engagement (OSE). In the beginning Joyce said she was a little apprehensive because it meant not only having to let go of a space, but also having to sort everything out and get rid of a lot of stuff.
However, instead of focusing on the negatives, she chose to focus on the benefits of the move. She jokes now about how her new office doesn’t have a window, laughing it off saying her last window was terrible and she would rather have no window than a bad one. On a more serious note, she says that the move has helped her see more possibilities with regards to programs; ODMA and OSE can join forces and merge ideas for some college events.
Her current job, however, is not the first point of contact that Joyce has had with the college. She grew up in Westminster and could be described as a “double alumnus,” having earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from McDaniel College. Yet Joyce did not have the typical college experience. She started out as a traditional first-year student, but did not stay for the four years. She returned a couple of years later as a non-traditional student and completed a double major in Spanish and Religious Studies with a minor in international studies. She did a master’s degree program in counselor education, and worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Multicultural Services.
Dr Debora Johnson-Ross, who is Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, has worked quite closely with Joyce and says in regards to her position, “Joyce fits her job perfectly because the life experiences which she possesses give her a particular kind of insight and perspective on what diversity truly is.” Even outside their professional relationship, Dr Johnson-Ross had only good things to say about Joyce, calling her a respectful and very thoughtful person who always emulates peace and equity.
When the student president of McDaniel’s Hispano-Latino Alliance, Douglas Rivera, is asked to describe Joyce, he says, “Mahlia is one of the nicest people I have met here on campus. I have never seen her upset or mad and I feel that she never lets her personal life interfere with her work.” Rivera was very appreciative of the support Joyce has showed him and his organization but even more so for the fact that she tries to make herself easily available and has a genuine care for the students. He describes her as someone who goes out of her way to ensure that things planned actually happen.
For instance, McDaniel was hosting a speaker, Rosa Clemente, and Joyce went out of her way to drive to and from Baltimore to pick Clemente up, get her to a hotel, then to campus and back to the hotel and then drove to the train station in Baltimore at 8:00pm. This was clearly outside her normal working hours, but she did it anyway.
Joyce is really committed to her Job and says she took the position because she liked what it entailed-a lot of student interaction and tackling issues that she feels passionate about. She admits however, that she has to find a balance and make more time to do the things that she loves, such as gardening, journaling, walking and scrapbooking. Family and friends are important to her and she makes it a point to spend time with them. But, for the most part, the fun she has is actually on campus; she says she enjoys and is very enthusiastic about attending student programs or sessions where there are guest speakers.
On the days when she does have some down time at home, Joyce says she enjoys watching TV shows such as Law and Order, King of Queens or Say Yes to the Dress. She also loves to curl up with her dog Sebastian and cat Skittles, who she likens to siblings always fighting for a parent’s attention.