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Tuesday March 28th

Diversity liaisons work to ensure UNC's campus is inclusive

<p>Rumay Alexander</p>
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Rumay Alexander

UNC has received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for the second year in a row from Insight into Diversity, a higher education magazine. 

This is due in part to UNC's diversity liaison program, which was officially assembled and named in 2012. Each of the 35 departments in the College of Arts and Sciences has a diversity liaison, said Kevin Guskiewicz, the dean of the college.

Many schools and divisions within the University, including the College of Arts and Sciences, also have their own diversity liaison

According to UNC's Diversity and Multicultural Affairs website, diversity liaisons work within each department at the University to improve equity and inclusion and help push various initiatives related to UNC’s diversity goals.

Dr. Ariana Vigil, a diversity liaison for the women's studies department, said the liaisons assist in the recruitment of staff and graduate students, making sure the population of UNC's campus accurately represents the population of the state and country. 

Vigil said she has enjoyed her work as a liaison, and as a Latina woman, she has a personal connection to the program. She said one of the biggest challenges is not being able to commit more time to the program than she already has. 

Guskiewicz, who created the Dean’s Faculty Diversity Advisory Group, said he hopes to see the diversity programs continue to blossom and improve over time, and to make UNC the leader in diversity and inclusion among college campuses.

“We pride ourselves at Carolina — we are doing better than our outside peers in inclusion,"  Guskiewicz said.

Guskiewicz emphasized the importance of inclusiveness within the faculty and graduate student recruitment process. He also praised the work of his coworker Kia Caldwell, director of faculty diversity initiatives and a diversity liaison for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Guskiewicz said Caldwell has worked on organizing many of the programs diversity liaisons focus on, such as "Understanding Differences" workshops, which each liaison is required to attend. Approximately 150 faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences have attended these. 

“It’s a very innovative program,” Caldwell said. “We don’t really know of any other university in the country, college in the country, that has this kind of program.” 

Caldwell said one of the program's initiatives is to make sure the environment in each department is welcoming to staff members from all backgrounds, regardless of race, physical ability, gender or sexual orientation.

Rumay Alexander, special assistant to the chancellor and director of the Office of Inclusive Excellence in the UNC School of Nursing, was involved with diversity programs before the liaisons existed. 

Alexander was involved in a diversity task force that built the diversity liaison program. 

She hopes to continue the success of the diversity liaisons and increase the frequency of their meetings, making the program more effective overall. 

The liaisons typically meet a few times a semester to discuss any issues or topics that have come to their attention.

“We are trying to bring alignment and efficiency to the process so we can partner with each other, collaborate with each other and be good stewards of our resources,” Alexander said. 


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