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Published: 2/19/2007

Inspiration is a big part of her duties at Owens

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Gentry Dixon is officially job coordinator at Owens, but mentor and confidante are among her unofficial roles. Gentry Dixon is officially job coordinator at Owens, but mentor and confidante are among her unofficial roles.
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Owens Community College pays Gentry Dixon to coordinate its student and alumni job placement program.

But the school is getting so much more for its money.

Ms. Dixon, 38, of West Toledo has become a de facto mentor and confidante for dozens of Owens' current and former students, many of them African Americans.

The Owens students who spoke to The Blade as well as Ms. Dixon and some of her colleagues all said people often seek Ms. Dixon's advice in areas that might not have anything to do with job placement.

Some of them even turn to her for motivation in life.

"She inspires me to be somebody," said Courtney Boose, 23, of Toledo, who is studying criminal justice and psychology.

"She's somebody I can look up to - not just because she's an awesome person, but she's someone who's successful and has a great job. I want to be more like her so people know me for what I've accom-plished."

Ms. Dixon said she couldn't put a number on the people she knows, like Ms. Boose, who come calling for advice when the door is open.

Some of the people who enter Ms. Dixon's office in College Hall want her to help them with a teacher, a relationship, or a family issue.

Ms. Dixon might not even know the name of the student sitting in front of her, but she will still listen to his or her problems.

"I have an open-door policy where, whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, I will try to help them with what they're dealing with," Ms. Dixon said.

"And because of my open-door policy, people stop by quite a bit. I need to learn to shut the door sometimes when I'm working on other things."

Ms. Dixon said most of the students she mentors are African Americans, though she said her door is open to students of all races.

She's been the adviser for the black student union on campus since it was restarted two years ago. But she said that is not the only reason that most of those who come to her for guidance are people of color.

"Sometimes it's because I'm a familiar face," Ms. Dixon said. "Sometimes people feel more comfortable with a familiar face and connect with a familiar face. And it's true, being the adviser for the black student union draws more attention."

Ms. Dixon didn't seek her dual role when she became Owens' employment coordinator seven years ago.

She said her network of advisees was created through her daily work, which involves coming in constant contact with students and helping them seek employment.

She said a successful job placement for a student would lead to them asking for help in other matters, and then telling friends about what Ms. Dixon can do for them.

"This hasn't happened because she's African American," said Daniele Martin, Owens' testing coordinator. "All students can feel comfortable going to her. She can relate to people, and she's just so friendly. When you go into her office, you're the only thing that matters to her."

Leonard Bragg, 36, a culinary arts student and interim president of the black student union, said it's important to understand that Ms. Dixon doesn't always tell students what they want to hear.

Mr. Bragg said Ms. Dixon will say whether someone is headed down the wrong path or needs to correct a mistake. He said that quality is one of many that endear her to students.

"She can be real with you," he said. It's all a part of her "job."



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