Thursday, February 9, 2023

New minority affairs coordinator brings passion, campus knowledge

November 16, 2000
Nikki O —

For the past 16 years, many students, faculty and administrators have known Murray Edwards as MSU’s coordinator of African American student affairs - until recently.

Starting this fall, Edwards assumed the title of senior coordinator for the Office of Minority Student Affairs. Although the title changed, he said he has always performed the double duty of supervising other coordinators in the office as well as overseeing MSU’s black student population. It could be overwhelming at times, Edwards said.

“The load placed on me in the coordinator position in assisting the needs of a large black student population, plus being involved in other activities, was unrealistic and hard to juggle,” he said.

Edwards’ title change left his previous position open. Enter Nikki O’Brien, a 1997 MSU alumna working in the human resource department of an integrated health care network in a rural Virginia town.

O’Brien found out about the open position through MSU’s Web site and decided it was exactly the career change she wanted to make.

“I found myself in my current position helping the employees at more of an academic level,” said O’Brien, who started work Wednesday. “Even though I could do my job well, it just wasn’t my passion. I wanted to work with students, especially students of color.”

O’Brien was one of nearly 35 applicants to endure an extensive selection process that would last more than two months.

First, a paper screening narrowed the field down to only five candidates.

Those five traveled to campus to be interviewed by a screening committee that included representatives from the Department of Residence Life, the Office of Supportive Services, Black Student Alliance and the Women’s Resource Center, among others.

Only two from that group made it to the final phase - an all-day interview with staff, minority aides, BSA executive board members, various administrators and members of university departments.

Rodney Patterson, the director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs, described O’Brien as “outstanding” and said he’s confident she will bring her strengths to the table.

“She had the combination of experience, knowledge of the institution and drive that we were looking for,” Patterson said.

O’Brien, who served as a minority aide in Holmes Hall from 1994 to 1996, had only one word for her selection process - “Tough.”

“It was probably the toughest interview I’ve had so far and I wasn’t taking anything for granted,” she said.

But enduring the interview landed O’Brien the position.

Being the coordinator for African American student affairs includes responsibility as area coordinator for minority aides in South Complex residence halls, which is something O’Brien feels comfortable doing with her past experience.

“Having been a minority aide, I know what issues minority aides face,” she said. “That helps me understand who I’m serving because I remember what I needed and wanted from an area coordinator.”

O’Brien said she is happy to be back on campus.

And her predecessor is just as excited about his new colleague.

“I’m very good at coming up with an idea,” said Edwards, whose new job focuses more on retaining minority students at MSU. “Her strength is she’s good at implementing ideas. She’s a no-nonsense type of person. Give her a task and she’ll take care of it. I’m very excited for that.”

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