The Simple Pragmatism of Diversity
I believe that building the diversity of our student body, faculty and staff is essential for UT Dallas as the University progresses toward its goal of being counted among the great research universities of this nation.
My passion about this subject arises from my belief that our success as an institution hinges on our ability to recognize and celebrate difference. It is our multiplicity and variety, ever strengthening and more strongly celebrated, that gives us a competitive edge in producing distinctive leaders in our globalized world. Simple pragmatism demands that UT Dallas embrace diversity for these reasons:
The world is diverse. The world is a highly varied and interconnected place. In order to function and compete effectively in this global enterprise, faculty, staff, and students need an appreciation for, and an ability to work with, people of varied genders, races, religions, cultures, sexual orientations, perspectives, histories, and needs. The University must create a microcosm of this world if is to fulfill its responsibility to equip our people to deal effectively with the broad range of individuals they will meet and work with throughout their lives. We seek to empower everyone in the UT Dallas family to succeed to their full potential, and that means providing all with a good understanding of their own diverse community and the diversity they are likely to encounter.
The world is shrinking. Technology is localizing our planet, enabling us to “talk” and socialize with people all over the world, anytime and anywhere. As the spaces between people diminish, the need for mutual understanding grows. To function successfully, we must be able to listen thoughtfully and receptively to someone who looks different or comes from another place, whose values or religious beliefs differ from our own. Successful people will view these experiences as opportunities to grow and learn, not barriers to overcome. Our success in this global environment demands that we engage with and learn from others.
Diverse teams succeed. A diverse group of smart people has an inherent creative advantage against a group of equally smart but homogeneous individuals. There is value in a team in which each member brings a different perspective to the table. Each person’s point of view is unique, shaped by education, family, gender, religion, acquired knowledge, and life experiences. To fulfill our mission of preparing students to succeed as leaders, we must ensure that their experiences at UT Dallas give them the knowledge and capability to work effectively with all kinds of people.
Employers demand diversity. Many employers who seek out our graduates give top priority to hiring a diverse workforce. They demand a breadth of perspectives among their key people to address the needs of a global customer base. A profoundly important indicator of success for UT Dallas is its response to market demand. And we seek not just to meet expectations of markets, but to exceed them.
Inspiration comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. People succeed more readily when they can model the success of a person who is similar to them in some way. For instance, a talented young woman with a gift for mathematics is more likely to develop her full potential if she has an opportunity to work with a female mathematics professor whose very existence refutes the idea that femininity and mathematical prowess are mutually exclusive. We serve students best when we provide them with a highly qualified and diverse faculty who inspire them both personally and intellectually to reach toward their highest aspirations.
The mix of cultures, religions, and lifestyles of Dallas-Fort Worth is richly varied. The University of Texas at Dallas is positioned to make a substantial impact in educating and creating new ways to raise the aspirations and enrich the lives of this diverse community. Our University can reach its goal of being recognized as a national research university that fully serves its urban community by integrating academic excellence with diversity and community engagement. Our leadership transforms our community and positively impacts our state and nation.
Diversity is about a rich environment of varied people, ideas and perspectives. We should celebrate our differences out of recognition of the value added by those differences—to us individually, to teams of people, to our institution, and to our community. Nationality, gender, race, sexual orientation, class, and life experiences are rich reservoirs for genius and for informing us about our world. At UT Dallas, we encourage individuals to build new realities—to “create the future.” We do not fight history. We make it. One person, one student, and one leader at a time.
I close by thanking the many valued colleagues whose perspectives have enriched my thinking about diversity. Themselves a very diverse group, they have personally enlightened me by sharing their experiences and ideas. Sincere gratitude to all.
Updated: November 22, 2011