Helping Students Thrive
Lu Ferrell strives to live by the motto, “Be who you needed when you were younger.” Those words come to life in Ferrell’s work supporting diversity and inclusion at UNH.
“It’s incredibly important to be able to see yourself in people and see their ability to be successful,” Ferrell says.
This fall, Ferrell took on the role of interim director at the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA). OMSA creates opportunities for people to participate in an inclusive community and build their understanding of diversity, social justice, inclusion and equity through a variety of educational offerings and support services. Ferrell’s position is one that’s essential to UNH’s mission of building a more inclusive campus. Ferrell, who is also coordinator of LGBTQA+ Initiatives, is committed to social justice education and working with underrepresented members of the campus.
That’s part of why Monica Chiu, interim associate vice president for community, equity and diversity, selected them to head OMSA during this academic year. “On any college campus, you have to work hard to get undergraduates to feel they belong,” Chiu explains. “OMSA is a place where a lot of students feel they belong. Lu is a familiar face, and in this role, you need to be dynamic and think outside the box. It requires awareness and a great deal of emotional intelligence — qualities Lu has.”
During their three-plus years at UNH, Ferrell has coordinated the UNH Safe Zones program as well as a dialogue series called #RealTalk and serves on the President’s Commission on the Status of LGBTQ+ People and two subcommittees within the commission: the Transgender Policy and Climate Committee and the Queer Professional Development Working Group.
“My hope is students will not feel this transition,” Ferrell says of their work as the interim director at OMSA.
Meeting together in the Office of Community, Equity and Diversity in Thompson Hall, Chiu and Ferrell discuss what sets OMSA apart — not the least of which is UNH’s foresight in creating the office some 25 years ago. “We are exceptional, being here this long,” Ferrell says. “Our office is built off of conversation and connection, and our goal is to support students and make our campus more welcoming. I want us to see students as whole beings and their whole selves.”
“Watching students flourish, seeing them grow, that to me is especially gratifying,” Chiu says.
On campus, Ferrell and Chiu are witnessing an ever-increasing number of requests to provide social justice education opportunities. And both point to the importance of reinforcing inclusion and equity across the curriculum and campus. As Chiu puts it, “If you don’t have the equity, you don’t have the community." When diversity is understood and equity is a priority, students know they belong.
In keeping with that inspired quote —“Be who you needed when you were younger” — Ferrell wants to help make sure students know they belong at UNH. “My inner passion is to work alongside students in order to support their ability to thrive,” Ferrell says. “They teach me so much more than I teach them.”