The Diva Opals, a budding, non-Greek organization on campus, thrives to create a community for black females at the University of Tennessee.
“Diva Opals” is actually an acronym standing for divine, intellectual, virtuous African-American sisters. It’s a woman’s empowerment group for black females that hopes to create a home away from home for young women on campus. The organization also focuses on members’ academic, intellectual, spiritual and economical development.
Jocelyn Milton, associate director of Minority Student Affairs and Diva Opals adviser, thought of creating the group a couple years ago. Her idea became official last spring, making 2006 the group’s first full year of active operation.
The Diva Opals gives members the opportunity to network with fellow students with whom they may have never otherwise found themselves associating. Members have the chance to interact with students from different majors, fields and colleges. In addition, friendships and relationships are also built and enriched.
“If nothing else, I hope when members come to the meeting they feel connected,” said Audrienne Ector, a senior in marketing and Diva Opals president. “I want them to come and feel at home, or like themselves.”
Throughout the semester group members create events available to every student. In the past, they have hosted a speed-dating program and a poetry night. They are also known for their monthly bake sales on the Pedestrian Walkway.
The group spends the bulk of its meetings concentrating on obtaining outside speakers to talk about various topics. Members have covered topics such as financing, self-defense, career services, dining etiquette, resume building, health and physical fitness.
“This is a way for them to learn things together,” Milton said. “They share information with other women. It’s been very nice to watch them grow. I am really proud of the Opals.”
The Opals dedicates time to volunteering, as well. Members volunteer weekly at the Walter P. Taylor Boys and Girls Club, attempting to reach out and show support for the children. They spend time feeding the homeless, as well as participating in other sporadic volunteer services. During the fall semester, they were heavily involved with Race for the Cure. The group’s biggest event in the spring is working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, where they volunteer as models in the breast cancer awareness fashion show. The audience is composed of breast cancer survivors, and the group enlists to serve and entertain them.
Between meetings, community service, social events and daily determination, the Opals has quickly budded from an empowering idea to a growing organization.
“These ladies are taking it upon themselves to develop,” Milton said. “I am very, very excited about their progress. It’s kind of like watching your child grow up.”
The group meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Black Cultural Center.

Merri Shaffer
Staff Writer