Taking HEED of diversity

photoThe INSIGHT Into Diversity HEED Award, open to all colleges and universities throughout the U.S., measures an institution’s level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus through initiatives, programs and outreach; student recruitment, retention and completion; and hiring practices for faculty and staff.

The University of Georgia has received national recognition for its efforts to foster an inclusive, diverse campus for the second year in a row as a 2015 recipient of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

The HEED Award is the only designation of its kind awarded to institutions that exhibit outstanding efforts and success in the area of diversity and inclusion throughout their campuses.

“The university is pleased to receive, once again, this important recognition for the diversity of our campus community,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia strives to cultivate an environment where individuals from all backgrounds feel valued and supported. We are pleased to be recognized for our efforts to create a positive and inclusive academic community.”

As a HEED Award recipient, the university will be featured in the November issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity magazine and website in higher education.

“As an institution we are proud to be recognized as a HEED Award recipient,” said Michelle Garfield Cook, associate provost and chief diversity officer. “Units throughout the university are engaged in celebrating diversity and making our campus a more inclusive and welcoming place. It is truly a community effort that supports a core value of the University of Georgia.”

UGA’s successes include initiatives to recruit diverse students, faculty and staff and to improve graduation rates of underrepresented groups. All students are required to complete a course that explores cultural diversity, and the university offers several diversity related events, curricular offerings and training and certificate programs for faculty and staff.

Programs such as the Georgia African American Male Experience, the National Institutes of Health-funded PREP@UGA and Peach State Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation have increased minority enrollment at UGA over the past decade from 22 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2014.

UGA’s six-year graduation rate for African-American students is 81.5 percent — more than double the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The graduation rate for Hispanic students is 79.5 percent, which also far exceeds the national average.

“Fostering diversity among our faculty, staff and students gives the University of Georgia a competitive edge in today’s globalized world,” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten said. “We all benefit when a broad range of perspectives and ideas are considered, and I am delighted that UGA’s efforts to promote diversity and inclusion continue to receive national recognition.”

Several organizations, programs and people across campus help make UGA a national leader in fostering diversity and inclusion. Below are just a few.

photoThe society was named UGA’s “Organization of the Year” for the 2014-2105 academic year during the 14th Annual H. Gordon and Francis S. Davis Student Organization Achievement and Recognition Awards.

The Black Male Leadership Society

The recently revitalized Black Male Leadership Society is using its momentum to foster the academic, social, intellectual and spiritual growth of black male students and alumni.

The society was named UGA’s “Organization of the Year” for the 2014-2105 academic year during the 14th Annual H. Gordon and Francis S. Davis Student Organization Achievement and Recognition Awards.

“I am incredibly proud of the work the Black Male Leadership Society has done this year within our community, across campus and within the Athens community,” said Charles King, alumnus and former president of the society. “We’ve done a number of things to embolden and inspire the black male population on campus.”

BMLS, a student organization within the Division of Student Affairs, works closely with the President’s Office and the Office of Institutional Diversity to recruit black male scholars, conduct forums, sponsor clothing drives and host numerous events, including a fall retreat and a spring semiformal awards banquet.

“I have found a family that I can impact the campus and community through,” BMLS President Shallum Atkinson said. “They say you can’t make a small campus bigger, but you can make a big campus smaller-BMLS does that for me, and I am forever grateful.”

BMLS is one of 13 organizations advised under the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs, including the Hispanic Student Association, the Asian American Student Association, the Pamoja Dance Company and the Indian Cultural Exchange, among others.

photoUGA was also named to the “Military Times Best for Vets: Colleges 2015” rankings. Only 140 colleges and universities nationwide have achieved the designation, which results from a comprehensive school-by-school assessment of veteran and military students’ success rates.

Student Veterans Resource Center

Serving the students who served this country is the mission of the Student Veterans Resource Center.

The center offers wide-ranging support to and advocacy for student veterans and is the go-to location for wayfinding and entry into an array of university, community, state and federal services.

“It has boosted my engagement level by connecting me with other student veterans and faculty and staff that have a heart for veterans and their issues,” said Justin Sailers, a senior majoring in finance and president of the UGA Student Veterans Association.

This year, the center is piloting a new Black Belt Certificate Program, which focuses on easing transition and facilitating career readiness.

“The program is designed to encourage student veterans to engage in experiential learning opportunities-mentoring, internships, study abroad, leadership-to enhance their learning and position them for success after graduation,” said Ted Barco, director of the Student Veterans Resource Center.

Established in April 2013, the center is open to all student veterans enrolled at UGA and also provides a relaxation and study lounge. It is located in Room 481 of the Tate Student Center and is open 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. fall and spring semester.

photoInternational Student Life produces campus-wide programs including International Street Festival, which draws crowds of around 15,000 to downtown Athens, and International Coffee Hour, an event held weekly for more than 40 years that brings students, faculty and staff together for international cuisine and coffee.

International Student Life

The aroma of coffee and cuisine from across the globe beckons people to the Memorial Hall Ballroom every Friday, drawing students, faculty, staff and community members to share cultures.

International Coffee Hour, a gathering held weekly for more than 40 years, International Street Festival and ethnic nights are some of the many events brought to campus through International Student Life.   

Last year’s street fest in April drew more than 5,000 attendees to College Avenue in downtown Athens, where student organizations sponsored interactive cultural displays as well as music and dance performances. UGA Food Services contributed an array of ethnic food options to expand the free cultural experience for visitors.  

“Not many institutions have a department dedicated to working with international students to support them while also working with domestic students to engage them in order to internationalize the campus experience,” said Justin Jeffery, director of International Student Life.

International Student Life advises approximately 20 international and multinational student organizations that promote the core values of advocacy, building community and cultural exploration.

photoThe FSP seeks to illuminate, through oral history and documentary filmmaking, the social activism of unsung participants of the American civil rights movement.

The Foot Soldier Project

Many important fighters in the civil rights movement are unknown, but the Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies and Research ensures that their stories are told and their impact is not forgotten.

The project aims to advance civil rights scholarship and discourse on diversity by chronicling the lives and stories of the less-familiar “foot soldiers for equal justice.”

“The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies is an interdisciplinary program that partners with the Russell Library to focus on research and outreach related to civil rights and social justice issues,” said Maurice Daniels, dean and professor of the School of Social Work, who is the founder and director of the project. “Its activities include documentary film production, manuscripts and volumes, archival preservation and community outreach programs.”

He added that Foot Soldier Project research has contributed to the production of a number of public television documentaries including the film “Hamilton E. Holmes: The Legacy Continues” and publication of manuscripts as well as the recent book “Saving the Soul of Georgia: Donald L. Hollowell and the Struggle for Civil Rights.”

For more information, see http://footsoldier.uga.edu/.

photoThe LGBT Resource Center provides programming and engagement to meet the needs of the LGBT and ally communities by creating an environment of advocacy, education and support. Current programming highlights include Dawgs Making It Better, a weeklong program to promote awareness in the campus community; the student organization Lambda Alliance; and the Safe Space program, which educates faculty, staff and students who are interested in learning how to better support and affirm the LGBT community.

LGBT Resource Center

Cozy couches, bright colors and welcoming faces fill the rooms of the LGBT Resource Center, which creates an environment of advocacy, education and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, ally and advocate-identified students.

“I come here more for the comfort and the safe space,” said Jose Carrillo, a sophomore majoring in chemistry and ambassador to the LGBT Resource Center. “When you’re here you’re not judged, and you know you’ll be accepted.”

The LGBT Resource Center, established in 2005, is one of the few centers of its kind in the South and is visited by an average of 30 students per day.

It consists of a student lounge, conference room and reception area that houses a library of more than 1,000 books, a collection of current magazines, a DVD library of both entertaining and educational films, several varieties of organizational and education pamphlets and sexual health resources.

A variety of programs and services provide increased awareness and foster understanding of issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Some of the center’s signature events include Dawgs Making it Better, Celebration of National Coming Out Day, an LGBT History Month Display, Transgender Day of Remembrance and Lavender Graduation.

The LGBT Resource Center is located in Room 221 of Memorial Hall.