Campus News

University certificates, scholarships awarded during Embracing Diversity ceremony

Shown, from left, are Michelle Cook, senior vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives; UGA President Jere W. Morehead; James Anderson II, recipient of the second annual Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander Award; and Dawn Bennett-Alexander. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

“Being an ally to the racial diversity and inclusion movement against all forms of social exclusion cannot be short lived only when it receives the most attention,” said Philip Hong, dean and professor in the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work and keynote speaker at this year’s Embracing Diversity event, held Oct. 20 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

“I hope to continue to expand the academic horizon for myself and the environment in which faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners will work together to strengthen the culture of diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Philip Hong, dean of the School of Social Work, delivered the keynote address at the 2022 Embracing Diversity ceremony. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

As an Asian-American who grew up in a predominantly white area of Virginia, Hong told a story of his preschool and kindergarten experience. Hong was one of two minority students in his class and often found himself at the back of the snack line or alone at recess. His teacher put Hong and the other minority student in timeout more than any others, and when the time came for parent-teacher conferences, the teacher said that Hong was disruptive, lacked focus and must have a debilitating learning disability. When Hong moved on to kindergarten, he was met with a new, caring teacher who included Hong and embraced his differences.

“My assessment suddenly went from the most incorrigible, problem child to the most precious and talented kid who has infinite possibilities,” he said. “Without a turn of events, like being given a new teacher and leveraging other privileged identities and a new environment with support from mentors, families, friends and unknown angels, diverse identity can be mistaken for being associated with unwarranted anger or discontented outcasts. It is essential for diversity to become more meaningful.”

Embracing Diversity is an annual program that celebrates the value of diversity and inclusion at the University of Georgia. The ceremony recognizes employees who have met the requirements for the Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion and presents scholarships to students who have exemplified and promoted diversity in their communities.

“We’re strengthened daily by the different experiences, backgrounds, cultures and perspectives that we each contribute to the intellectual and educational enterprise here at UGA. Embracing Diversity is also a reminder that we should all support the multitude of diversity and inclusion activities, programs, lectures, panels and performances that will take place throughout the upcoming academic year,” said Michelle Cook, senior vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives.

UGA President Jere W. Morehead also emphasized everyone’s role in creating an inclusive community.

“Each of us here today plays an important role in promoting a culture at UGA that is inclusive, supports our diversity efforts and helps us signal the enduring commitment that we have to this campus community,” he said. “We have to embrace diversity in everything that we do at this institution. This campus-wide approach is the key reason for the implementation of our diversity and inclusion excellence plan.”

The second annual Dawn D. Bennett-Alexander Award was presented to James C. Anderson II, associate professor of agricultural leadership in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and graduate program coordinator in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication, at the event.

“I am truly honored, and this recognition encourages me to continue this work of building the capacity of leaders to create inclusive spaces in our classrooms, communities and organizations,” Anderson said. “When I first arrived at UGA, I was invited to an event where Dr. Bennett-Alexander was the keynote. I remember being inspired by her message of intentionally working to create spaces where marginalized voices are heard. It was at that event that I committed to being unapologetic about my work in leadership for social justice, and I haven’t looked back since. So, receiving this award, her namesake, nearly six years later is special and brings it full circle.”

Fuad Elhage, a lecturer of Spanish for the professions in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, was recognized for his “Diversity through Dance” workshop, a class offered for the Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion. Learning and Development and the Equal Opportunity Office were recognized for their partnership with Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion courses.

The recipients of the 2022 Black Alumni Scholarship are, from left, Zoe Jordan, Zaria Hart, Christian Tubbs and Jordan Howard. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

The Black Alumni Scholarship was awarded to four first-year students “who exhibit dedication to racial equality through previous experiences, initiatives and creative endeavors in improving race relations in the community.” Zaria Hart, majoring in exercise and sport science; Christian Tubbs; majoring in business management; Jordan Howard, majoring in computer systems engineering; and Zoe Jordan, majoring in psychology, received the scholarship. The Diversity Scholarship, sponsored by the UGA Athletic Association, was also awarded to first-year students Kennedy Baker, a mathematics major, and Juan Lazo, a political science major, for a dedication to diversity in their communities.

Josh Brooks, left, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics, presents the Diversity Scholarship to Juan Lazo. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Additionally, 220 UGA employees were recognized for earning the Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion in 2021-2022, earned by voluntarily completing six courses covering a variety of diversity-related areas. The certificate program is a partnership of the Office of Institutional Diversity, the Learning and Development Center and other diversity-related offices and programs at UGA.