McDaniel says goodbye to ODMA Director Mahlia Joyce

As an alum and staff member of McDaniel College, it is difficult for Mahlia Joyce to resign from her post as Director of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.

“I feel like I’m a baby bird about to hop out of the nest,” said Joyce, who returned to McDaniel as a nontraditional student to complete her undergraduate degree before earning her Master’s here as well.

On Aug. 15, Joyce emailed student leaders of ODMA organizations to announce her departure, explaining, “After nearly four years at McDaniel, a school and community I will always love, I have decided to pursue other career opportunities.”

She has been hired at the Tai Sophia Institute for Healing Arts, where she has also been accepted into the Therapeutic Herbalism graduate program. Joyce explained that she has been interested in holistic health and medicine for quite some time, so when the job came along, she took it as a good opportunity to immerse herself in a long-time side interest.  This will be her first post-McDaniel job after the completion of her graduate degree. The career change came so unexpectedly that she had finished planning the year’s ODMA programming back in June and July.

Joyce expressed hope that her email to the student leaders would give them adequate time “for the reality to sink in, and time to figure out how to move forward.”

“If I could have done things differently, one thing would’ve been to have gotten together with the leadership of the organizations to come up with a plan for moving forward,” she said.  However, she expressed confidence in the abilities of the incoming student leaders to function in her absence.

Currently, there is nobody to replace Joyce as Director of ODMA, and it is yet undetermined how the position will be filled.

“I hope that students are very involved with the…process and vocal about what their needs are,” she said.

In the meantime, Joyce urges ODMA groups to support each other and find other faculty on campus who are supportive and reach out to those people, in addition to connecting with the Office of Student Engagement.

“Stick together,” she said. “Sounds kind of hokey, but work together, really encourage each other and get to know each other.

During her time in ODMA, Joyce worked hard to build relationships. It was important to her for students to learn from one another, organizations to connect with one another.

One thing she will miss most about McDaniel is these relationships. She explained that it has been a joy to be able to help facilitate connections between other people, too.

This is also an opportunity for the diversity groups to connect more with their advisors, she said, citing the example of Women’s Issues Group, who recently employed the guidance and assistance of their advisors as they changed their name to Student Advocates for Women’s Equality.

Joyce hopes that the growing use of technology on campus will not threaten these relationships, which she describes as “unique to McDaniel,” because while technological advances are often great, there is value in human connection.

Besides technological changes, she has also experienced many space changes while here.

“I’ve actually seen the office in three different spaces,” she said. Her current location in the Office of Student Engagement includes one feature she will not miss- the noisy Rouzer elevator.

While she has worked hard to broaden the scope of diversity programs, she said that relevant programming is brought to campus by departments other than hers as well.  Her advice to the next ODMA director is this: “I think it’s incredibly important for the office to continue building relationships with faculty and staff across campus as well as to support and promote the work of faculty and staff.”

Her vision for ODMA includes an Assistant Director or Program Manager, or even expansion into a Multicultural Center with meeting spaces for the campus’s diversity groups, where students can “feel free and comfortable to have organic conversations about difficult issues.”

One of the biggest challenges ahead for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is something it has been facing for a while now- getting awareness out about programs and increasing attendance.  Joyce cited our society’s “illusion of being a post-racial society,” which translates into “difficulty getting students involved in identity-specific organizations.” Additionally, there’s the issue of “diversity fatigue,” because the students coming into college have been exposed to many of these issues and cultures all throughout grade school. She hopes that student groups will take on some of the responsibility of changing these perceptions and thoughts.

“I know they’ll be fine,” Joyce said. “They have a great group of leaders coming up, a young group of leaders.”