Diversity in Action

Friday, February 9, 2018..United at The Rock rally against racism. Chancellor Beverly Davenport...Photos by Erik Campos..41161At UT, we are committed to the success of each one of our students, and we want people to bring their authentic self to our campus. We are committed to supporting a campus community where every student, faculty, and staff matters and belongs.

The team in the Office of Diversity and Engagement serve as a catalyst to leverage resources and best practices across campus in the areas of climate, engagement and outreach, education and professional development, compliance, and assessment. This framework for inclusive excellence helps UT faculty, staff, students, and other members of our Volunteer family understand the importance of the work we are doing to create an inclusive climate and culture at UT.

In fall 2020, as part of a university-wide initiative, each college submitted a diversity action plan to address goals and priorities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion as applicable to each individual area.

The goal of the initiative is threefold:

  • To provide a framework for units to develop strategies to address barriers and challenges to inclusive excellence in their units.
  • To promote a culture of evaluation and accountability as it pertains to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
  • To foster a greater sense of ownership among all members of the campus community in making UT a place where all Vols matter and belong.

The Rock message "Keep shining Bright from home sweet home, Vols! Vols for all - Nameless" as campus sits empty during the Coronavirus Pandemic at the University of Tennessee on March 20, 2020 by Hayden Antal/University of Tennessee.As the largest, most diverse college at UT, we have an opportunity to be a leader in creating a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive campus climate. We will involve all college constituencies – students, faculty, and staff – in promoting an inclusive environment for our diverse community. We will foster professional development and advancement opportunities for faculty and staff. In taking these and several other steps outlined in the college diversity action plan, we hope to attract and retain a greater number of individuals from historically underrepresented populations at all levels in our college community – faculty, staff, administration, as well as our graduate and undergraduate students.

Within our college, we have four distinct disciplines: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and visual and performing arts. Members of the departments under each one of these categories developed diversity action plans specific to their disciplines. They will be available on department websites later this year, but we provide here a few examples of how disciplines are integrating diversity and inclusion into their daily practices.

In the Department of Geography, members of the curriculum committee will ensure the curricular requirements include significant intercultural perspectives. One way they will achieve this goal is to increase topics related to diversity and inclusion in the core course curriculum. Another way is to provide more opportunities for students to get involved with study abroad and through community outreach programs.

Faculty, students, and staff in the Department of Psychology view diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice as fundamental ethical, societal, and scientific values and seek to actively promote diversity and inclusion in their local, regional, national, and global communities. The Diversity Council is charged with implementing the department diversity plan and maintains a comprehensive page on their website that highlights research, clinical work, and social justice advocacy.

In the natural sciences, goals include strengthening partnerships with diverse committees in Tennessee and globally. Faculty in the Department of Microbiology will increase engagement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) through visits to HBCUs in Tennessee and the region, as well as inviting HBCU faculty as guest speakers. In the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB), faculty will establish a yearly Diversity in Science seminar for graduate students. Topics will include cultural sensitivity in science and health disparities.

More options for independent studies and graduate coursework in feminist philosophy is one of the objectives for members in the Department of Philosophy to incorporate intercultural perspectives into the curriculum. In the Department of Religious Studies, faculty will develop tools to focus on religious diversity and literacy. They will create a religious holiday calendar, work with campus leadership to improve the current policy on religious holiday absences, and provide training sessions that focus on religious literacy.

Members of the Department of Classics started their diversity action plan by stating, “The appropriation of the classical past toward promoting hatred and racism is injurious and wrong. It is intellectually shallow.” Part of their plan is to foster an understanding of diversity in antiquity by hosting a series of public lectures focused on diversity in the ancient Greek and Roman world.

In the School of Art, one way they will create and sustain a welcoming, supportive, and inclusive climate is by being a community defined by respect and civility, creative expression, and critical thinking. From the Department of Theatre, programming is key to achieving results with their diversity action plan. Focusing on productions with content and themes addressing diversity, each season they will feature plays written by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, disabled persons, women, or other underrepresented writers.

For more information about diversity action plans and initiatives that support an inclusive learning and working environment, visit diversity.utk.edu.