A Lasting Legacy: Celebrating Keith Oden's Tenure at Tech

After a 35-year-long run at Georgia Tech, Keith Oden has decided to retire as the College of Sciences’ Director of Academic Diversity.

"I feel my career at Georgia Tech and the College of Sciences has been very rewarding and impactful," Oden says. "I think it is time to pass the torch to other individuals who can continue the initiatives that not only increase diversity, excellence, and inclusion, but also the overall Georgia Tech experience for all students, staff and faculty."

Oden is the first person to serve as the College’s Director of Academic Diversity. He was named to the position in 2012. Oden collaborates with faculty, student organizations, academic departments, research centers, and undergraduate/graduate admissions offices on recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations, such as ethnic minorities, women, and first-generation college students.

Oden advises the Georgia Tech student chapters of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) and the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE).

"Keith has worked tirelessly on a variety of programs to broaden participation in science and mathematics to include more students from groups that have historically been underrepresented in STEM," says David Collard, College of Sciences Associate Dean for Academic Programs. "But more important than any one program are the mentoring relationships that he has established with students over the years."

“From the moment I joined the CoS (College of Sciences) team, Keith welcomed me with open arms,” says Emma Blandford, Assistant Director for Living Learning Communities at Georgia Tech. “He supported my efforts to embed diversity and inclusion initiatives into the foundations of our first-year program, and helped me to connect with undergraduates who are working to make a difference for their peers. Keith’s passion is undeniable and I wish him the absolute best as he moves into the greatest adventure.”

Jennifer Leavey is a principal academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, Director of Georgia Tech Urban Honeybee Project and Faculty Director for the EXPLORE Living Learning Community. Leavey says she knows Oden best from working with him on the Research Bound program for prospective graduate students.

“With that program, Keith created an experience in which young undergraduate researchers visualized and actualized themselves as professional researchers,” she recalls. “From the poster session to the professional development and networking sessions, the event paralleled the features of a scientific conference. Keith has gift for bringing out the best in young people and it was fascinating to watch the transformative effect the program had on the students who attended it. I know Keith will continue to have a positive impact on all the young people he encounters even in retirement. It's in his nature! I will miss him.”

Oden lists several accomplishments that he is proud of during his time at Georgia Tech, starting with his relationships with students and student organizations. "I feel that I have benefitted from helping these groups accomplish their goals. I have been at Georgia Tech because I enjoy working with students, encouraging them, mentoring them, and sharing opportunities with them. As an administrator, my managers gave me the liberty to be creative in implementing new initiatives and programs that would have a positive impact for the Institute. Some of these initiatives include submitting and successfully having REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) programs funded, and increasing underrepresented minority participation." In addition, Oden has served as a formal Georgia Tech mentor for Institute staff for more than 20 years. 

"Keith's work in partnership with faculty in our schools to establish National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates summer programs has been a real highlight," Collard says. "For example, the creation of a program in physics has established a strong track record of encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue graduate study, both at Georgia Tech and elsewhere."

Oden first came to Georgia Tech in 1985. He has also served as diversity director for the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and as the director of the Graduate Co-Op and Fellowships Office. Oden received a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies-Higher Education from Georgia State University in 2004. His B.S. is from SUNY-Albany, and he received his M.S. from Brockport College. 

Oden plans to spend more time with family and friends, and will also volunteer to work with middle and high schol students, along with part-time teaching and consulting. "I will also continue to travel worldwide, once the pandemic is over. In other words, I still plan to be very active, have fun and enjoy life."