African Student Organization Promotes Diversity and Unity Amongst Oswego Students

For some students, Thursdays at SUNY Oswego means one thing - ASO.

The African Student Organization, founded in 2004 on the SUNY Oswego campus, is one of the four ALANA organizations on the Oswego campus. Created to provide diversity and culturally unite students, the organization spreads knowledge and appreciation to and for the African culture in an environment where the African population was rapidly increasing.

“ASO provides African students a place to feel at home and comfortable,” faculty advisor Grace Maxon-Clarke said.

According to Clarke, the founder Grace Macoupa, saw that there was a rise in African students attending SUNY Oswego but they did not have a place or organization to call their own. At that time organizations like the Black Student Union and Caribbean Student Association were already established. Macoupa felt that African students should have an organization of their own where they can bond with other African students, Clarke said.

Jacklyn Okunola, current president of the African Student Organization at SUNY Oswego, said her first interaction with the organization was very positive.

“They were very welcoming and friendly,” Okunola said. “ASO is like a family and that’s something that I really liked.”

*African Student Organization president, Jacklyn Okunola, tabling at the Student Involvement fair.*

ASO is student-run by an executive board that consists of a president, vice president, secretary, director of finance, correspondence, special events, public relations and programming. Aside from the executive board, the organization also has a dance team and a group of interns that work closely with the executive board in planning and organizing events and weekly meetings.

Okunola started her involvement with ASO as a dancer her freshman and sophomore year. She said that the organization provides room to grow as she was able to move from a dancer to director of correspondence, to vice president to ultimately the president of the entire organization in just a year and a half.

The organization plans and hosts annual events for students and faculty to learn about and celebrate African culture. These events include group community service, ‘Pan-Africa,’ the ‘Battle of the Designers’ fashion show and this year, the first annual ASO Conference.

The ASO Conference is a conference where African student organizations from different colleges and universities come to the Oswego campus to learn about each school and each specific organization which took place on Friday Nov. 3 to Sunday Nov. 5. It included educational workshops, brunches and a formal dinner.

“This is the first conference that will be held in upstate,” Okunola said. “They have conferences in the midwest so we wanted to do one here for the upstate schools.”

Although ASO was originally targeted towards African students, it is a very inclusive organization Clarke said. Many students who regularly attend the meetings and large events the organization hosts, are not directly of African descent.

“We are more open as an organization now than before,” Okunola said. “We accept everyone regardless of them being African.”

Maya Jean, a Haitian - American student, is very enthusiastic when it comes to ASO.

“Nobody got you like ASO got you!” Jean said. “I go to every event and support them and I try to go to meetings when I can. They treat you like you’re family regardless of your ethnic background.”

Okunola says that as long as a person has passion for African culture and is willing to learn more about it, they are welcome to be part of the organization regardless of background.

“ASO is a family,” Okunola said. “We’re welcoming to all types of people. That’s something that I’m proud of my organization for.”

Weekly meetings for the African Student Organization are held at 7p.m. on Thursday’s in room 211 in the Marano Campus Center.