The Office of Diversity and Inclusion's new Instagram account @facesofou highlights members of the OU community and their different views regarding the university.
Since the account’s creation in early June and official launch on Aug. 2, the office has worked to showcase stories of those who have not had their impact on the OU campus widely recognized, said Tahirah Naidu, one of the account’s managers and a Peer Program assistant.
Naidu, a biology pre-med sophomore, said the account was inspired by a similar account called @humansofny, which posts photos and tells short stories about random people around New York City. Sharing people’s “OU Stories” was a way for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to rebrand and promote inclusivity among the OU community, Naidu said.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, formerly the Office of University Community, went through changes during the spring 2019 semester after several racist events took place on campus.
“It’s really important to connect with one another ... It makes people see their differences and also connect them through their differences,” Naidu said. “OU is such a big campus but also can feel like a very small community.”
While the idea for the account came about in early June, posts were not made until the first week of classes. Naidu and the other account manager, Rysa Khan, a management information systems sophomore, have been conducting interviews all summer and will continue them through the semester, Naidu said.
Pooja Parikh, a biochemistry and computer science pre-med senior, was the first person featured on the account.
“I truly did not know what I was getting myself involved with, but when explained the mission of Faces of OU, I instantly fell in love with the idea and loved getting to be a part of it,” Parikh said.
Parikh said the account shows students, prospective and current, that OU can be home and that you don't have to look or act a certain way to feel welcome here.
As much as she loved OU and was excited to be on campus, Parikh said she felt out of place when she first arrived. She didn’t really know anyone aside from her brother, but she had a mission to get involved.
After taking a chance on multiple organizations, Parikh found her place with Campus Activities Council and found inspiration from the chair of Howdy Week, eventually becoming chair herself.
“Faces of OU ... is showing everyone on this campus that they are welcomed and that they can write their unique OU story right here without feeling odd or judged," Parikh said.
Matthew Salcido, a pre-law sophomore, was also approached to be a part of the account’s debut. Salcido’s OU story highlighted his status as a transgender man in the OU community.
“I felt very seen, and as a young transgender man living in Oklahoma, I don’t get to experience that often,” Salcido said. “I felt like a valued and visible member of the community. It’s important to provide intentional opportunities for different communities that so often lack that spotlight.”
International business and marketing pre-law freshman Jayke Flaggert, a follower of the account, has been actively keeping up with the account since its beginning.
“I definitely have the post notifications turned on,” Flaggert said. “I’ve gotten to hear about some really interesting people that I go to school with.”
The account currently has six OU stories featured, and more will be posted later on in the semester.
According to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Instagram account, @diversityou, the staff is working to interview many people with diverse backgrounds so they will have OU stories to share throughout the semester.
To be featured on the account, fill out an application here.