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BGSU official's efforts deemed just 'pure gold'

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Among other assignments, Sheila Brown plans the multicultural dinner theater, a variety show celebrating Black History Month.

The Blade/Lori King
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It wasn't what Sheila Brown set out to do, but her colleagues say nobody can get students involved the way she does.

With degrees in biology, audiology, and recreational administration, Ms. Brown, in August, will celebrate her 10th year as associate director of programs for Bowling Green State University's Center for Multicultural and Academic Affairs.

Not only does she plan one of the larger events on campus each year - the multicultural dinner theater that will be held this year on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 - Ms. Brown advises minority students and numerous student groups, previously coordinated a successful college preparation program, and teaches aerobics classes on campus.

Ms. Brown's eyes light up when she talks about the dinner theater, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The event packs the ballroom in the Student Union, and typically about 100 students participate in the variety show in celebration of Black History Month.

The participating students represent a large portion of the African-American students at BGSU, Ms. Brown said.

"I've had a lot of people tell me that if they didn't have something to do like dinner theater, they wouldn't stay here," she said.

Even people who never have performed before or are scared to do so are urged to give it a try, and most end up enjoying it, she said.

"Once they get bitten by the bug, they get going, and they do the best they can," Ms. Brown said.

Amber White, a junior studying human development, said Ms. Brown can be a little tricky getting people such as her to participate.

"She would say, 'I need you to do me a favor,' and it would be to play this role or to do this on stage," Ms. White said. "I didn't want to do it, but it ended up being fun."

Ms. White is one of the many students at Bowling Green who considers Ms. Brown a mentor.

The two met in the summer of 2004 when Ms. White participated in a program for high school sophomores and juniors that gave them a glimpse into the college experience during a six-week program.

In 2003, Ms. Brown was recognized with a Michael R. Ferrari Award, the highest honor bestowed upon administrative staff at BGSU. She was nominated by a colleague, Bob Midden, an associate professor of chemistry.

Mr. Midden said he is blown away by the way Ms. Brown relates to students and gets them involved in events like the dinner theater.

"It's absolutely amazing," Mr. Midden said. "I've never seen a person who can pull them together like this and get everything together in such a quality that even professionals don't achieve."

Mr. Midden said Ms. Brown is a talented performer in her own right with an outstanding Tina Turner impression, but she chooses to work behind the scenes and let the students shine.

"Self-esteem is almost too weak a word for what it accomplishes," Mr. Midden said. "It's the realization of doing something of value that other people appreciate and you're good at. That's pure gold."

Ms. Brown also coordinates the university's Kwanzaa celebration of the fruits of the harvest in December before students leave for the semester break.

She advises such student organizations as Africana Dance Troupe, Eccentricity, and For Your Innertainment, and she was named BGSU Student Organization Adviser of the Year in 2005.

A member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Ms. Brown had advised the BGSU chapter for more than six years and was recognized in 2004 as the outstanding graduate adviser for the sorority's five-state Great Lakes Region.

All that's in addition to her day job.

That is advising freshman minority students and helping them find their place on campus so they will stay through graduation.

She sought to be a nurse after high school and has pursued different careers throughout her life, but all have led her to where she is today, and she wouldn't have it another way, Ms. Brown said.

"I really enjoy what I'm doing," she said. "It refreshes me. I get re-energized every fall."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.

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