Making a Difference: Voices for Equity at O’Neill

By Manali Mukherjee

At Indiana University, the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs is more than just a place for academic growth— it’s a thriving community where students from diverse backgrounds come together to make a lasting impact. Among these determined students are the members of “Students for Equity in Public Affairs” (SEPA), a student-led organization that is driving positive change within O’Neill.

SEPA was founded by students in 2015, and since its creation, it has hosted many events to promote equity and inclusion. SEPA’s mission is to improve diversity and the cultural climate at O’Neill through recruitment, retention, advocacy, and action. It serves students in all academic levels at O’Neill, and its dedication to promoting equity extends outside of the school to the local community.

One of the most recent events that SEPA organized was their annual Cultural Expo. This marked the second year of the event being held, and it was able to be achieved through collaboration with numerous student organizations on campus. As an undergraduate ambassador for SEPA, it was incredible to see the work that the team put into this event come to life. The event transformed the first floor of the Graduate Center into a vibrant showcase of various cultures through delicious cuisine, awe-inspiring performances, and beautifully designed booths. In addition to this, SEPA also held a Dia De Los Muertos Ofrenda in November and has been volunteering in the community.

Along with promoting equity at O’Neill, SEPA also offers its members a sense of belonging and an outlet for their passions. These are just a few of the members who have felt positively impacted by SEPA:

Grace Brenner, the organization’s secretary, said that when she started as a new student, the prospect of a role on the SEPA Board excited her, offering a way to get involved and integrate into the O’Neill community.“SEPA gave me my first friends within O’Neill and helped me to have an outlet for my passions for social justice and equality,” Brenner said. An Undergraduate Ambassador, Indya Lewis, shares a similar sentiment and said that for her, “SEPA has helped IU feel more like home and been a place where my presence and voice matter and can be heard.” SEPA offers a welcoming home at IU for many and aims to continue doing so for many years to come.

The organization has also helped passionate individuals find a way to get their voices heard. President of SEPA, Zsofia Leary, is a perfect example of this. She states, “I saw areas of

improvement both here at O’Neill and at IU at large. SEPA seemed like an organization where I could make my voice heard.”

Similarly, Victor Akangbe, holding the position of Vice President of Advocacy & Action, recognizes the power of binding together in amplifying individual voices. He passionately asserts that he is “an ardent believer in harnessing the power of collective action by advocating for and championing causes aimed at fixing social disparities,” understanding that unity within a group is a catalyst for ensuring that each individual’s voice is not only heard but resonates powerfully.

SEPA is an embodiment of the spirit of O’Neill and the commitment of its students to equity and social justice. The work that SEPA has done thus far is a shining example of the impact that passionate individuals can have when they come together with a shared purpose. SEPA’s dedication to creating a more inclusive space at O’Neill and IU at large is inspiring. As we look ahead, it’s organizations like SEPA and students like Grace, Indya, Zsofia, and Victor who remind us that by working together, we can make a difference and create a more equitable future.

By Sydney Glickman
Sydney Glickman Peer Educator