Campus News Georgia Impact Society & Culture

Diversity initiatives are making significant progress

Photo of the Arch.
(Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

New programs established by the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community are already making an impact on the UGA campus. Over the last year President Jere W. Morehead committed $1 million in private resources from the UGA Athletic Association to implement 16 initiatives to foster a more welcoming and supportive learning environment for Black and other underrepresented members of our community.

Vice President for Student Affairs Victor Wilson led a 16-member Task Force that collected hundreds of recommendations from across the UGA community. The group completed its work in December and accepted recommendations are now being implemented. These initiatives, listed below, total over $1 million in funds invested or allocated to fulfill the charge of this Task Force.

The diversity educator position will focus on building new programs to meet the growing demand on campus for participation in the institutions popular Diversity and Inclusion certificate program. Paris Lawrence, a UGA graduate of the Mary Frances Early College of Education, has filled this role and begun making an impact since his arrival earlier this spring.

The School of Law and the School of Public and International Affairs have established the Judge Horace J. Johnson, Jr. Lecture on Race, Law, and Policy. This lecture honors the late jurist who was a trailblazer for the Black community in Georgia. On April 28 the inaugural lecture will feature professor Stephen L. Carter, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

In partnership with UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institution for Leadership Development, UGA will pilot Reflective Structured Dialogue (RSD) Training. Two cohorts of faculty and staff will receive this training in April and May. Built on a foundation of trust, resiliency and collaborative action, participants learn techniques that enable them to have conversations about the issues that matter deeply to them and remain in relationship.

Campus markers to recognize historically Black fraternities and sororities will be installed on the West Lawn of the Tate Student Center. The Greek Life Office, in collaboration with the Office of University Architects, has worked to finalize the details of this project with students, alumni, and national organizations prior to installation later this year.

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Student Advisory Board will bring together student representatives from groups and organizations across the university to increase belonging, foster shared community, and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at UGA.

$150,000 has been allocated for Public Art Projects that illustrate our values of diversity and inclusion. Conversations with artists are underway and soon we will see the installation of art that more fully reflects the great diversity, histories, accomplishments, and pursuits of all members of our community.

The Community Read program was launched through a collaboration with Alumni Association’s Between the Pages program. The first book that was featured as a part of this project was “In My Place” by UGA alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault. The capstone to this event was President Morehead allocating an additional $25,000 to the Giving Voice to the Voiceless Fund, established in 2017 by Charlayne and her husband Ron.

The purpose of the Voices of Color Symposium is to create collective opportunities for groups of UGA faculty, staff, and administrators of color to share the ways they have crossed both difficult and empowering experiences along their professional careers. The speakers will consist of a select group of current UGA faculty, staff, and administrators who are invested in creating welcoming, meaningful, equitable and critical spaces on campus.

The Disability Resource Center will work to expand awareness and advocacy for disability issues in this 30th year since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This will create a broad platform for discussion of issues related to disability, empower students with disabilities, champion access on campus and in the community, and bring national speakers to campus to address disability as an aspect of diversity.

Padres e Hijos (or Parents and Students) is an English/Spanish bilingual student recruitment program that brings a few dozen underrepresented, academically competitive, high school seniors and their families to visit campus. This program aims to address the students’ interests in academic and campus life to help families support students who want to enroll.

Administrators on campus have begun exploring ways to implement a Diversity Training Module that would enhance understanding of DEI topics. This training would establish a baseline framework for living and learning in a diverse community.

Funding has been allocated to provide programming support for the LGBT Resource Center as the center approaches its 15th anniversary. These funds will enhance the offerings of the center, empower students, and increase their resilience.

The Dawn D. Bennet-Alexander Inclusive Community Award will be given to a faculty member who has contributed extensive efforts to promoting diversity, equity and inclusiveness at UGA. The call for nominations was sent on April 1 and the award will be presented at the Embracing Diversity Celebration in September.

To provide additional support to underrepresented alumni and alumni groups, an Alumni Community Graduate Assistant will begin working with staff in the UGA Alumni Association. This graduate student will conduct research and establish processes to build community, increase outreach and engagement, and foster new connections.

Students who work to advance an inclusive living and learning environment within Greek organizations at UGA can be supported through the Greek Life Diversity Award. This endowment provides a financial incentive for the recipient and has received funding support from the Interfraternity Council and alumnae of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

A partnership with Chess & Community, a local nonprofit, will promote STEM education in middle and high school students in the Athens community. Through the Pawn Accelerator program students will gain skills in robotics, 3D printing and design thinking.

Learn more about the Task Force and its recommendations here.