Tag Archive | "Inclusion and Diversity Training"

Breakfast with Bense brings talks of diversity

By Erin Timmons

President Judy Bense’s pursuit of greater cultural diversity at the University of West Florida is extending beyond the perimeters of campus and into the community of Pensacola.

Bense shared breakfast with a crowd of about 50 African-American activists and educators at the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church on Aug. 30 and discussed the outlook of the university and its leaders’ desire for a more multicultural student body.

“It’s high time we were here, and it’s high time we come back,” Bense said in a presentation to the group. “UWF has grown so increasingly diverse in the last few years, and it’s time we share that with the community.”

Utilizing development plans that highlight structural changes on campus, re-energizing the staff, and increasing the efforts towards visibility of the university outside the area of Northwest Florida, Bense and other faculty members encouraged the audience to get involved and invested.

“Our student body is now almost 30 percent diverse, and we want to be a better reflection of our community,” Bense said. “If you don’t think big, you won’t get big.”

Interim Vice President for University Advancement Brendan Kelly echoed the call for outreach between the university and the community in which it resides and serves.

“UWF is known for its community engagement,” Kelly said. “There are 19 million people in Florida, and only one million of them are in this area. UWF is an economic engine that we want this community to be a part of.”

The increase in minority enrollment on campus has been encouraged by university administrators who are taking initiatives to prepare the faculty and staff for the increase in diversity and the necessity for awareness and tolerance.

Vice President of Student Affairs Kevin Bailey introduced multiple initiatives the university is taking in order to ensure that campus life is an enjoyable experience for all who attend UWF.

These initiatives included mandatory training for all employees that involves “education on multicultural competence for student affairs,” Bailey said. “Bias response protocol is also being generated to allow for reporting of incidences of bias and discrimination to be handled in the best practice possible.”

Kasha Brown attended the event as a member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women of Pensacola and said she was inspired by the changes that UWF has made and are looking to make in  the future.

“I had always assumed that the university had a negative environment for people of color,” Brown said. “So after I graduated from Pensacola State College, I thought about moving elsewhere to get my degree. But now I think I want to stay and go to UWF.”

Bense said, “If we can make more of those moments happen, where people consider UWF. Then we won’t have anything holding us back from achieving our goals.”

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Common Ground group performs at third annual educational event on diversity

Students perform at the third annual Common Ground Skits, Dance, Myths and Dialogue in their attempt to end hate and ignorance on campus. Race and socio-economic backgrounds were two of the issues faced. (Photo by Haley Chouinard)

Inclusion Services and Programs presented the third annual Common Ground Skits, Dance, Myths, and Dialogue this past Tuesday, April 2, in the Commons Auditorium.

The Common Ground Inclusion and Diversity Training Program is a group of students and faculty members that are committed to providing a platform for people to talk about issues of difference. This group is open to all students who are interested in promoting inclusion and diversity on campus.

Common Ground hosts this event every year in hopes that it will give students an opportunity to start a dialogue about diversity.

Associate Dean of Students & Director of Inclusion Services and Programs Dr. Lusharon Wiley hosted this year’s event.

Members of Common Ground asked students to complete a survey as they came in. The survey questions focused on socio-economic backgrounds and attitudes toward people with different ethnicities and sexual orientations.

The night really got going when members of the faculty and staff performed a flash mob to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.”

Following the flash mob, author Jack Beverly was introduced and read one of his short stories, “Learning Black.”

The story chronicled one of Beverly’s first encounters with African Americans, which led him to meeting accomplished jazz singer, Nancy Wilson.

“I was living in a small, all-white community in Kansas,” Beverly said. “We didn’t have any racial issues but we only had one race.”

The message of Beverly’s story was that he had learned as a young man that “black is only skin deep.”

A particularly heartwarming moment followed when Melody Smith, a fourth grade student, stood up and sang Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable.” At one point, Melody forgot the lyrics to the song and members of the audience joined in and sang the rest of the song with her.

The evening became serious when a video made by members of Common Ground was shown.

The video opened with a moving song by Student Activities Office Specialist Patricia Hartley about stopping hate. The video explored a variety of tough issues including sexism, prejudice, ignorance and feeling different.

After the video, Dr. Wiley prompted the students in the audience to share their personal experiences with the topics addressed in the video. Many students opened up about their encounters with racism, sexism, and being treated differently because of sexual orientation.

The evening came to a close with the announcing of the survey results. The results proved effective in driving home the message of the night, which was that we all share common ground.

Freshman criminal justice major Lauren St. Simon, 18, felt that the event made her more aware of how universal discrimination is.

“I came here thinking that only African Americans were the ones being discriminated against,” St. Simon said. “But it opened my eyes that other races are being discriminated against. Like even by sexual orientation or people with disabilities.”

Patricia Hartley thought that the event was a success.

“I think that in general everything went very well,” Hartley said. “I think that we had a very good turnout especially compared to past years.”

Common Ground member and freshman pre-nursing major Chelsea Kendrick, 18, echoed those sentiments.

“I think it’s a great event and everyone should come out next year,” Kendrick said.

Haley Chouinard
Contributing Writer 

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