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Urmila Mali

Oral History Interview

Interview Transcript

Interviewers:

Emilee Boyd, Jessica Tafoya, and Lauren Kimura

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Biographical Note

Urmila Mali was born in Kathmadu, Nepal, in 1969. She lived in Nepal until her family moved to Tillamook, Oregon, in 1979. There she attended school from fourth grade through high school. After graduating from high school, she chose to go to Oregon State University, following in her sister’s footsteps. During her undergrad years, she studied broadcast communication and earned a degree in Masters of Art in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in anthropology and women’s studies. Prior to her current appointment as acting co-director for the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), Mali held a counseling position within EOP, which involves working with non-traditional students regularly in order to provide academic and personal support.

Interview Summary

Urmila Mali details her transition from high school in Tillamook to college in Corvallis as a positive experience due to the diversity of international students present at OSU. Some of her mentors include her sisters, EOP coworkers, and others. Mali then talks about her decision to attend OSU, her impressions of campus, her transition towards receiving a master’s degree, and her current position as acting co-director for Education Opportunities Program. Her usual position is as an academic counselor within EOP, and she relays the duties embedded within that position. Mali expresses gratitude for the diversity of the staff working in her department while detailing the increase of opportunities available to students of color. Within that, she mentions International Student Services as an important program for giving a voice to people of color. Following this acknowledgement, Mali recognizes the role of OSU in supporting students and staff of color as not only recruitment, but also retention. Moving away from OSU, Mali discusses her relationship with the Nepalese Association of Oregon, including her family’s initial involvement, its growth, and its events. She then mentions the documentary entitled Color of Fear as a tool for recognizing the racism that exists locally. This is followed by challenges Mali has faced in her career along with her accomplishments. In closing, Mali reiterates the importance of providing support services to students and staff in order to retain the diversity at OSU.

Students’ Response

Urmila Mali was very happy to do the interview and had a lot of great input. A lot of the major topics she spoke of were understanding that racism does exist here in the Oregon State community. Urmila highlighted that it’s all about what we as a community do to keep a nurturing environment for faculty and students. It’s great that students of color are admitted to Oregon State, but how are they being integrated? Urmila was a fantastic interviewee and shed light of the issue of racism on college campuses and how to address that. Being as though she’s worked at Oregon State for over fifteen years, she’s seen the growth and transformation in the community on cultural diversity. Her main point was to just be a community that is well aware of racial issues, but also a community that has various cultural centers and events to integrate minorities.

Having participated in many programs and events at the university, Urmila asserts that it is the responsibility of the students and faculty to make changes on campus. She states that providing a supportive and open environment is her goal as a member of the faculty on campus; a goal she thinks others should have in mind (personal communication, November 14, 2014). One of the biggest changes she has seen with racial inclusion on campus has come from the development of cultural centers, a change brought on by the request of students and the help of faculty.

Urmila understands her own achievements to be when she aids in the achievements of others. For example, she considers her success to be when she helps a student understand a concept or when that student goes on to graduate with her help (personal communication, November 14, 2014). Her definition of success is reminiscent of the Haroldson’s in that she succeeds for herself while helping others succeed (personal communication, November 2). In this way, she possesses leadership qualities, which can also be seen with her participation in the Nepali Association of Oregon (NAO).

By being a part of the NAO, Urmila has passed on knowledge she has acquired and benefited Nepali-Americans living in Oregon. She has organized events and made sure high school students have the funds necessary to attend college. Her work has not been limited to the Oregon State campus but strives to help all students overcome academic and social barriers in order to enhance their success.

Sources Cited

Prior to interviewing and meeting with Urmila Mali, we conducted research using her curriculum vitae, where she provided information about her work at OSU and her educational background leading up to her career with the university. Other sources of research included the Education Opportunities Program and Division of Student Affairs pages on the Oregon State website as well as the Nepali Association of Oregon website.

“About NAO.” Nepali Association of Oregon. Nepali Association of Oregon, 2001-2009. Web. 10 November 2014

“EOP Staff.” Education Opportunities Program. Oregon State University, 2014. Web. 10 November 2014.

“Urmila Mali-Student Affairs Service Aware 2004-05.” Division of Student Affairs. Oregon State University, 26 May 2005. Web. 10 November 2014.

More About the Educational Opportunities Program

Educational Opportunities Program Website

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