OID speaker issues call to learn more, remove obstacles to diversity

September 26, 2013

Celebrating how far UGA has come but also challenging itself to push further, the university held its annual Embracing Diversity event Sept. 5 at the Chapel.

Victor Wilson, the new vice president for student affairs, delivered the keynote address in which he challenged the audience to continue striving to learn more about the diverse people who surround them and remove the obstacles to embracing diversity.

"It is when we immerse ourselves in those things that scare us terribly or seem different that we gain the most enlightenment," Wilson said.

The event also gave UGA an opportunity to recognize the students receiving diversity scholarships as well as the faculty and staff who completed the UGA Diversity and Inclusion Certificate program.

Libby V. Morris, the interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, said diversity and inclusion-including race, gender, orientation, language and national origin-have an important role to play in education.

"Those differences, when they are used to teach and inform, add to the richness and depth of our educational experience," Morris said.

In his keynote address, Wilson-in his first major speech in his new role-offered a few thoughts on the importance of embracing diversity.

One point of emphasis for Wilson was to remain continuously open to new ideas about diversity and to be careful about pigeonholing individuals based on our assumptions about them.

"We are always learning," he said. "We are not and never will be experts."

Wilson also said that he occasionally hears people question why it's still important to talk about diversity.

That reminds him, he said, of the book he one day intends to write. He said he would title it The Power of the Tie.

The title, he said, comes from the fact that as an African-American male he gets treated differently when he is wearing a tie versus when he is not.

"If I can wear a piece of cloth around my neck and be treated better," he said, "we still have a long way to go."

Also at the event, three students were presented with scholarships for their efforts to encourage diversity.Chandler Greer, of Lawrenceville, was presented the Black Alumni Scholarship by the UGA Alumni Association. Lory Deoleo, of Lilburn, and Stefan Wah, of Locust Grove, each were awarded an UGA Athletic Association's Diversity Scholarship.

Also recognized at the Embracing Diversity event were 76 faculty and staff who completed requirements for the university's Diversity and Inclusion Certificate. The certificate is a partnership between the Office of Institutional Diversity and the UGA Human Resources Training and Development Center.

"The idea behind the certificate is not just to tell people to go ‘be diverse,' " said Randolph Carter, coordinator of faculty and staff development at OID. "It was more about giving people awareness of varying levels of diversity, to give them skills to be diverse and to give them hands-on tools they could use at every point in their work interacting with faculty, staff, students and visitors of the university in making sure the growing diversity of our university continues."

For the complete story in Columns http://columns.uga.edu/news/fulltext/oid-speaker-issues-call-to-learn-more-remove-obstacles-to-diversity/