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A Letter to the ODI Family

By Yanhui Hou

As the end of my time working for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) approaches, I write this letter with mixed emotions. I appreciate the opportunity to express my gratitude on this open platform. Looking back to the last four years in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the words that come to my mind are respect, sincerity, and love.

I was hired as the graduate assistant for ODI in September of 2017, when I initially started my Phd program. I am so grateful to the University of Dayton for creating opportunities for graduate students to participate in the life of the different offices that make the University. These experiences complement what we learn in the classroom, allow us to witness the commitment of the University to its mission, and prepares us with the necessary skills for the real world.

I am also thankful for the guidance team members offered and the care they showed for me in the past four years. This opportunity has allowed me to understand what strategies work to make a person feel included in a team, and I wanted to reflect some of them back to you. 

I often say that our team is small but warm, and that it feels like family. I have learned a lot from each one of you and the way we interact together as a unit. Everyone has different roles, but we work together towards a common goal. We respect each other. Whenever there is a problem, we do not shirk responsibility, but think of any possible difficulties the other person might be experiencing, and then offer timely help. For a team to be successful and equitable, this is a necessary strategy. I have seen how team members employ patience and encouragement and help with any questions and problems we encounter in each one of the projects we work on. Seeing how effectively you perform administrative work was a great opportunity for me to develop my own skills. 

Life seems to be more than what happens in the office. I remember how some of you sat on the sofa in front of my desk to ask me about how my day was going and listen to my thoughts, not only in relation to our work, but also to everything going on in my life. Warm greetings every morning and displaying a smile all the time certainly facilitated feeling like a meaningful part of the unit. I also appreciated how carefully you listen to my ideas and thoughts.

I appreciate the commitment of Dr. Burnley to his faith. This greatly influenced my thoughts, behaviors and values and will continue to guide my life in the future. It really helps when leaders and team members ask about my family’s safety and needs every time an incident happens in our country. 

Meeting and working with Tiffany Taylor Smith, my supervisor, has been a life treasure. I still remember that in my initial interview she asked me what I like to do on the weekend. This simple question allowed me to see the respect she shows for everyone and the encompassing views she has about what constitutes life, which does not only have to do with work, but also with what happens outside of it. In our interactions, she also shared her life experiences and the different roles she faces as a woman, and that was really useful for me to feel included, supported and coached. 

My dear ODI family, no matter where I am, I hope to be your friend forever. 

Finally, I would also like to thank my second home at the University of Dayton, the Center for International Programs. Thanks to Dr. Charlie Russo, Suki Kwon, Linda Wallace and Andrea Wade who have always treated me like family. 

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