As the College of Arts and Sciences, we are committed to the long-standing traditions of the liberal arts and seek to promote the values of free and bold intellectual inquiry, vibrant and effective civic engagement, and an understanding of our nation’s and our world’s rich cultural heritages in all our students, faculty, and staff. We are proud to educate our students, through the lens of the liberal arts, to actively build a welcoming community that values critical inquiry, civil debate, and discovery. This allows us to celebrate our differences and moves us to a closer understanding of people with different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds.
As Associate Dean for Diversity, I serve as a member of Dean Lee’s cabinet and the college’s primary diversity liaison. I work with approximately eight campus and system-level diversity-related offices, as well as national diversity committees. I was appointed by the Chancellor as co-chair of the Vol Vision 2020 Diversity Priority Working Group.
With the addition of diversity to the Vol Vision 2020 benchmarks, the College of Arts and Sciences stands poised to support and advance UT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in its many forms. In our college, we have made progress to increase the diversity and retention of our faculty. We have also made progress in recruiting and retaining a diverse body of students through such programs as the Program for Excellence and Equity in Research (PEER), rigorous participation in the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (TLSAMP), and Math Camp. Each program is designed to increase student success in underrepresented minority students or lower socioeconomic students in the STEM fields.
As a college, we provide financial support for diversity and inclusion programming and encourage faculty, staff, and student participation. Ready for the World events, which celebrate cultural diversity, are one example of progress in diversifying programs that we have seen across all our units.
In Vol Vision 2020, the university adopted the diversity and inclusion statements of the American Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Commission for Access, Diversity, and Excellence. In our college, we consider diversity beyond the human experience of self and apply the concept to the long history of a liberal arts education. Part of that liberal arts education is diversity in experiences, which our students and faculty bring to the classrooms.
It is crucial for the development of our societies’ future leaders to support appropriate diversity initiatives our faculty, staff, and students see as important. We also need to continue to bring disparate groups and people together to build a more inclusive community with respect for different backgrounds and experiences. Productive dialogue and the civil exchange of ideas can be a challenge in today’s climate. Without an emphasis on inclusion, however, any diversity efforts will fall short as they will promote the canard that only exceptional individuals from underrepresented groups can compete with – and expect the respect of – the majority.
We seek to recognize and eliminate barriers that define the interests of the majority and minority as at odds. Inclusiveness recognizes that underrepresented populations are a key part of, not ancillary to, the whole. One of our goals is to proactively identify and eliminate barriers to increasing the number of people from underrepresented populations within the college.
We expect our graduates to embrace diversity and inclusion as a source of lifelong learning, personal fulfillment, and creative possibility. We should expect the same things from our own community. The University of Tennessee should be a place where the most dynamic, diverse, and profound learning environment can be found. We can and should create this environment. It is the right thing to do, not only for the present, but for future generations.
Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
Professor of Conducting, School of Music