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We are informed by our history. The Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA) is one of the longest-running and most comprehensive support programs in the country. It exists as a result of campus leadership, local community support and the activism of African-American law students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the late 1960s. After the success of the Project 500 initiative in 1968 — which was created to increase campus enrollment by 500 minority students — low-income and first-generation students of all backgrounds also began matriculating through the project. With the increasing numbers came the need for a permanent campus program to increase retention and graduation rates of a diverse student population and provide services for the enrichment and development of underrepresented students at the Campus. The 1960s leaders' vision of a diverse student population and persistence in seeing that they are supported resulted in what is now known as the Office of Minority Student Affairs or OMSA.

Diversity is one of the great strengths of a world-renowned academic institution such as the University of Illinois, and that presents both advantages and challenges for students. OMSA works to create and sustain a strong support network for students by collaborating with valuable resources and partnering with liaison deans and academic advisors in the colleges and departments on campus to offer services, programs and events for students.

Currently, OMSA coordinates more than a dozen programs and services to ensure the academic success of students who have been admitted to Illinois through the Educational Opportunities Program or the President's Award Program, as well as underrepresented students, and those who are economically disadvantaged and/or first-generation college students. Services are available primarily to undergraduates at Illinois, as well as K-12 students in the local and Chicago school districts through the office's Upward Bound College Prep Academy program.

Students interested in OMSA's services who currently are not part of the programs mentioned above may apply to the the Educational Opportunities Affiliates Program at the main office of OMSA, where selection is made based upon academic need and available resources.