Dr. Oris Griffin College of Education
For the last three years, Oris has spent at least one day a week in an inner-city school in Richmond, Va., as part of JMU's Professor-in-Residence Program, hoping to encourage minority high school students to pursue higher education. She'll readily admit it's a challenging goal. "Inner-city schools are not without their problems," she says, "Nonetheless, these students deserve great teachers too. They need teachers who will push them to excel, to become inquirers, to dream and to navigate a society where some have low or no expectations of them being successful." Oris is convinced that such teachers play a huge part in getting inner-city students to realize their potential to graduate high school and college and become contributing citizens in their communities. Thanks in no small part to her efforts, many high school seniors are far better prepared for college than before. Madison has benefited too — there has been a significant increase in the number of students from inner-city schools who have enrolled in JMU. Her trailblazing efforts have earned Oris numerous awards recognizing her role in building partnerships that increase diversity at JMU and improve the quality of public school education. But for Oris, the real reward is more fundamental. She says, "I've been able to fully embrace my calling."
"No one wants to be tolerated. Rather, people want to be accepted for who they are and for who they may not be. … It's not just ethnicity. … We have so many differences. We need to not only acknowledge those differences but also talk about how we can come together and build a community. It's all about community … and not being afraid to ask the tough questions."