The University of North Georgia is improving campus diversity with the help of the new diversity adviser and multiple campus organizations in order to create a more inclusive environment, and make students, faculty and staff more culturally aware.
The university wants to recruit more students of different races, ethnicity, genders, sexual orientations, religions and abilities to prepare students to be successful in a diverse, global work environment, said Sheila Caldwell, the new adviser to the president on diversity.
“Students need to be culturally sensitive and aware before they enter a work environment, and they cannot do that without being exposed to a variety of cultural groups,” Caldwell said. “Students may be open-minded and tolerant, but do not have always have enough knowledge about different groups to be sensitive.”
Caldwell said people have different ideas about diversity depending on their backgrounds and experiences and some people are uncomfortable talking about the subject, which hinders expanding it. However, expanding diversity is important because it changes the way people view each other and challenges stereotypes, Caldwell said.
“The benefit to the students and the university is an understanding of a larger scope of the world around us, outside of our comfort zones,” Alexis Carter, assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs, said.
Caldwell and several groups such as the Student Government Association, Diplomats for Diversity, UNG Faculty Senate, the Staff Council and the Diversity Council are developing a diversity statement for the university. The statement will reflect the university’s commitment to diversity and will be solidified during the fall 2015 semester, Caldwell said.
The university will also introduce a diversity certificate program for faculty and staff to build competency and cultural awareness, as well as a Diversity Championship Award for people who show commitment to expanding diversity.
Caldwell will be working closely with Diplomats for Diversity, students who train their peers and facilitate discussions about the issue. Diplomats for Diversity started on Gainesville campus and just came to the Dahlonega campus. The organization plans to expand to Oconee and Cumming campuses in the near future, Caldwell said.
Caldwell said the location of the university hinders diversity. North Georgia has a high percentage of Caucasian people, and those numbers are reflected at the campuses. Lumpkin County has a higher percentage than Hall County, according to records, so the Dahlonega campus is less diverse than the Gainesville campus.
“The admissions department has and will continue to work hard to recruit more diverse students from different places,” Caldwell said.
However, each campus is diverse in its own unique way, Carter said.
“I think there has to be careful consideration with our definition of the word ‘diversity’ and recognition that those parameters extend beyond race,” Carter said. “When asking those questions, consideration has to be given to other categories such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity, veteran status, religion, age-among many other categories.”
Student organizations involving diversity at UNG include Diplomats for Diversity, the Black Student Union, The Gay-Straight Alliance, the Interfaith Student Organization, the Asian Student Association, the Latin American Student Organization, the African-American Male Initiative and C.R.E.W (Creating an Environment for Respectful & Empowered Women). All are linked to the Multicultural Student Association.