CECH professor collaborates with Diversity and Inclusion resources, incorporates research to aid Latino students

Michael Odio discusses involvement with various organizations, on and off campus

At the turn of the century, in the 2000s, a severe lack of ethnic diversity plagued universities across the United States. Despite it being the 21st century, various ethnic groups remained underrepresented and underserved in the university setting, especially those of Latino heritage.

In 2009, Hispanic students made up only 14.4 percent of postsecondary education students (NCES).  

It was this period in time that sparked a desire for change inside Michael Odio, now an associate professor, Latino community advocate, and an integral faculty member at University of Cincinnati. Back then, Odio had never been to Cincinnati and, instead, was a Ph.D. student at University of Florida.  

Odio grew up in a predominantly Cuban area of Miami, Florida, with Cuban culture being a consistent staple of his community and family. His mother, who immigrated to the United States as a child, heavily influenced Odio’s eventual commitment to protecting and providing resources for some of America’s vulnerable populations, including non-English speakers.  

“[When she first moved here], my mother was put in a classroom where there was no ESL (English as a Second Language education),” Odio said. “She knew no English, and there were no resources there to support her.”   

Stories like what happened to his mother are what drive Odio to support people like native Spanish speakers and international students at UC.  

Odio first arrived at UC in 2014 after receiving his Ph.D. in Sport Management and began working as an Associate Professor of Sport Administration within the College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services (CECH). Shortly after he moved to Cincinnati, Odio began making connections with Cincinnati’s various Latino organizations and resources, like UC LEAF, the Latino Faculty Association, the Hispanic Chamber, Ohio Latino Student Summit, and Apoyo Latino.  

“[Cincinnati] is a place where things are going on, and I feel like this is a place to grow,” Odio said. “Since I got [to UC], I have been intentional about seeking out the Latino community.” 

Odio’s first community involvement was with Apoyo Latino, also known as the Greater Cincinnati Latino Coalition. Odio began attending Apoyo Latino’s monthly meetings, which featured some of Cincinnati’s prominent nonprofit service organizations, like the Red Cross and Su Casa, which allowed him to make valuable connections for future endeavors. While attending those community meetings and becoming familiar with the overall Cincinnati community, Odio began utilizing his newly made connections and perspective to create change, little by little.    

Professor Michael Odio standing on stairs
“I was able to understand a lot about the Cincinnati community, but at one point, I said, ‘Where can I make a difference?'. From having conversations on campus, I realized that a lot of work needed to be done.”

Michael Odio

On UC’s campus, Odio began making a difference by serving on various committees for UC’s office of Ethnic Programs and Services (EPS). It was during that time that Odio and other Latino faculty members noticed the need for a campus Latino organization that was organized and united. This, in turn, sparked the creation of UC’s Latino Faculty Association (LFA), to which Odio is a key contributor, alongside his fellow organization members. When LFA was created, its structure was heavily influenced by the Black Faculty Association, which was a frequent resource and reference during the startup process. One of LFA’s significant components is its research and impact grant program, which has provided funding for student projects, along with a hurricane-relief volunteer trip to Puerto Rico with students from Latinx En Acción. As one of LFA’s organization leaders, Odio has been the person to manage the finances and budgeting, e-mail updates, and relationships with other organizations and the Provost and President’s offices.  

In addition to his roles within Cincinnati’s various Latino organizations and as a professor, Odio is also a prominent researcher in organizational leadership, specifically regarding sports and internships. In his research, Odio has studied the experiences and management practices regarding seasonal workers, mainly in the sporting industry, as well as traditional interns, many of whom still face unequal or unethical treatment in the workplace.  

“Internships can be a really vulnerable state for young people. Issues of inclusion and sexual harassment need to be addressed and can be handled a lot better. We have to get to a place where we elevate young people.”

Michael Odio

Currently, Odio uses his research findings to improve workplace culture regarding temporary workers and advocate for the younger and underrepresented generation of workers.  

“I’m working on a few things, research and otherwise, to build more inclusive internships within the sporting industry, a white-male dominated industry with a history of abuse, exploitation, and sexual harassment that filters out a lot of potential future sport leaders,” Odio said.  

With his strong commitment to his research and empowering many of Cincinnati’s Latino organizations, Odio remains committed to one core principle: protecting the vulnerable. As a result of Odio’s contributions to the Latino community, UC, and Cincinnati overall, people who previously had no resources to support them can find empowerment right where they are.  

Story by Luke Bisesi, Undergraduate Journalism student at University of Cincinnati. 

Featured images taken by Jason Carter, CECH Marketing Services

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