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August 1, 2014

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University Celebrates Achievements in Diversity at Fifth Annual Gala

Ky “Jacky" Lam received the Student Diversity award from Dr. George Fair, interim vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, Dr. Emily Toby, associate vice president for faculty diversity, and Arthur Gregg (right), assistant vice president for multicultural affairs.

When graduating senior LaToya Mitchell started at UT Dallas, she dreamed about what her legacy would be.

Now, she knows. She was one of the University's first diversity scholars.

Mitchell shared her story during the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement (ODCE) Diversity Awards ceremony on April 25.

In 2010-11, Mitchell was among the first cohort of 20 University students to receive a Diversity Scholarship from ODEC, and, eventually, she became the cheerleading team’s captain.

“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and you should consider every challenge a new opportunity for growth,” said Mitchell, a speech pathology and child learning development major from Austin. “Although I came to UT Dallas not knowing anyone, I gained a great education, a lifetime experience and endless opportunities, but most importantly, a family.”

The fifth annual event, which benefited the Diversity Scholarship program, honored faculty, staff, students and community partners who have embraced the University’s diversity goals. In the past four years, 90 students have received scholarships. This year’s theme was “Diversity, Inclusion and Excellence: Inspiration for the Future.”

Dhunki

From left: Jasmine Johnson BA’12 of Sertec Corp., Rita Cloman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., keynote speaker Cheryl Brown Henderson and LaToya Mitchell, one of the first diversity scholars, were featured at the gala.

UT Dallas President David E. Daniel welcomed the crowd of more than 200 attendees by speaking about the importance of students becoming more sensitive to other people’s points of view about race, gender and sexuality.

Daniel also addressed how diversity closely ties into the University’s goals to contribute thoughtful leaders to society and become one of the nation’s best research institutions.

“I want (our graduates) to know how to work with teams of people,” Daniel said. “I want them to fully appreciate the true reality that the best teams, the most creative teams, are diverse teams of people who bring different points of view to bear on an issue and inevitably develop a better solution; and then when they leave here, they are fully prepared to participate in that kind of teamwork — that joint human creativity — and be the very, very best individuals that they can.”

Diversity Awards Recipients

Student Diversity — Ky “Jacky” Lam, a computer science senior at UT Dallas.

Student Organization DiversitySigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Inc.

Community Champion of Diversity — Kevin Mondy, founder, Project Still I Rise Inc.

Corporate Diversity Lennox International

Staff Diversity UT Dallas Career Center

Inclusive Excellence and Intercultural Engagement Teaching Dr. Thomas Linehan, director of the Institute for Interactive Arts and Engineering and the founder of the Arts and Technology program at UT Dallas, and Dr. Robert Ackerman, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

After UT Dallas student group Dhunki, a South Asian a cappella ensemble, performed the national anthem, Dr. George Fair, interim vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, detailed the office’s successes during the past year, including:

Faculty diversity achievements, including a 34 percent increase in the number of young female faculty, a 33 percent increase of senior female faculty and the recruitment of faculty from seven countries.

• Collaboration with other units across campus to raise $325,000 as part of the University’s Realize the Vision: The Campaign for Tier One & Beyond.

• Work with local businesses and chambers of commerce through the Community Diversity Advisory Council to maintain and support the University’s diversity goals.

• 10 years of programming and recent growth from the Multicultural Center.

• Two new endowments for the Galerstein Women’s Center.

• Renewed funding for the G-Force mentoring program at eight local high schools.

Cheryl Brown Henderson, whose father was part of the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education case, delivered the keynote address, “Why Diversity Matters.” In that case, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, along with 12 other parents led by the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against the Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education that led to the desegregation of public schools 60 years ago.

Brown outlined several of the country’s challenges with diversity from historic court cases over the years, including Dred Scott v. Sandford, involving slavery; Plessy v. Ferguson, involving segregation in public facilities; and Loving v. Virginia, regarding interracial marriage.

Lennox International representatives

Representatives from Lennox International accepted the Corporate Diversity award.

“We didn’t make this mess, but we’re here now, so we have a responsibility to make sure that while we are here living and breathing that we do our part to try to correct a historic folly that led unto this,” Brown Henderson said.

The ceremony included an emotional slam poetry performance by the winners of the Diversity Poetry Competition, freshmen Colton Hattersley and Cheyenne Mecalla Moore, both Terry Scholars.

The evening concluded with a reception soiree, which included African and Bangladeshi dance demonstrations, music by UT Dallas student group Comet Jazz, a raffle contest and cuisine from around the world.

Fair said the event has become the culmination of the community’s diversity-related efforts.

“We continue to make progress in our diversity goals, but we only can accomplish those goals with the engagement and support of our community and leaders inside and outside UT Dallas,” Fair said. “The generous support of our sponsors for tonight’s award ceremony will help advance our institutional diversity goals and mission and support well-deserving students.”

For more information about giving to the scholarship program, call 972-883-4566.

Media Contact: Brittany Hoover, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4357, brittany.hoover@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.


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