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An Interview with Lawrence Young of Oakland University...

When college freshmen first arrive, their first thoughts are not often about the people that are there. One of the amazing things about walking into a room full of college counselors, professors, and student interns is that every single person was once in that freshman’s footsteps. Every employed person in the office had to work to get to where they are. Not everyone believes that, though. Some people believe that minorities get special privileges to get where they are, which is untrue.

When a minority student at Oakland University walks into the offices of the Center of Multicultural Initiatives, that student is surrounded by people that worked to get where they are. The counselors, mentors, and heads of the department that do their best to ensure that minority students have resources all had to work to get to where they are today. An excellent example is Lawrence Young of CMI. He had to put in plenty of work to get to where he is today.

Lawrence was born in Detroit Michigan and is a lifelong Michigander. A graduate of University of Michigan-Dearborn, Henry Ford College, and Oakland University, Lawrence has worked incredibly hard to get where he is. However, he was not always on his way to completing a doctorate while working for CMI. He originally “spent the first 15 years of his professional development in the private sector working in manufacturing and retail supervision and eventually human resources.”

“It was during my time as a human resources manager for a major home improvement retailer that I had the opportunity to offer my services as a mock interviewer with Oakland University’s ACHIEVE program in the School of Business Administration”, Lawrence Said. “I had always been interested in working in higher education and this experience confirmed that it was time for me to pursue a career change.”

After enrolling in Oakland University’s Master of Higher Education Leadership program, Lawrence Young met Nicole Lucio, Assistant Director of the CMI Office. She told Lawrence about the work that she does, and Lawrence became in interested in working for CMI.

“After speaking with her about the CMI mission and the programs they offer I became very interested in an opportunity to work in this office”, Lawrence said.

Lawrence shifted his gears and began to work towards the goal of working for CMI. In his Student Development Theory course, he completed a literature review on multicultural intervention centers on college campuses, and that only pushed him further. Inspired by the mission of the program, Lawrence felt an obligation, a drive to help minority students out.

“Minority students at OU have a six year graduation rate of 38% while White students have a graduation rate closer to 70%. Underrepresented minority students need strategic and intentional support to close that gap”, Lawrence said. “Higher education was historically designed to benefit the majority group and there is a lot of institutional inequity that puts minority students at a disadvantage.”

After graduating, a position opened, and Lawrence quickly interviewed for it and obtained the position. He had now become retention coordinator for CMI. What would follow is a long, successful career with CMI that continues to this day. One important factor about Lawrence’s story is that his own experiences motivated him to become who he is.

“I would also say that my positive experiences with mentors and role models who shared my social identity and similar lived experiences inspired me to want to pursue this career path”, Lawrence said. “The work I get to do with CMI allows me to contribute to giving minority students a better chance at manifesting their academic goals."

His experiences at predominantly white universities also motivated him to work for the betterment of minority students. The important thing about tell his story is that it is inspiring. He managed to reach every goal of his through hard work and determination. Multicultural centers are not very common, and the jobs in the field are limited. Lawrence reached his goal because he put in the work every step of the way, not because of a hand out.

Lawrence's story disproves all of the racist notions that imply minorities only succeed when they are allowed special privileges. Stories like this one go to show that minorities work as hard as anyone else to find success, and they can find it through hard work.

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