Equity and Excellence Campus Awards

April 14, 2016

It’s my pleasure to be here to help honor our campus Equity and Excellence Award winners – undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. Welcome also to your family, friends and nominators, it’s great to have you all here. I’d like to thank Vice Chancellor Bob Boswell, Assistant Vice Chancellor Alphonse Keasley, and the entire staff in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement for organizing this great event.  I would also like to thank everyone who participated in the award nominations and selection process.

I am grateful to all of you here today for your many contributions to foster equity and excellence at the University of Colorado Boulder. The exchange of ideas and knowledge among people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives is a hallmark of higher education, and one we are committed to at CU. I am thankful that you are here to support it.

As you know equity and excellence is a major campus initiative. We want to embrace diversity and elevate inclusivity in all our work so it becomes part of who we are. This year we placed particular focus on this goal, and we will continue to do that.

  • Campus social climate was the focus of my annual spring town hall last month.
  • We had two Diversity and Inclusive Excellence summits –in November and February. It was the st year for the summit.
  • The Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement is taking the lead in developing our first comprehensive strategic plan around diversity and inclusive excellence.
  • And we had campus forums this spring, upon on the release of our campus social climate survey results, which showed that not everyone feels comfortable on our campus.

Everyone must feel safe and welcome in their environment to achieve their full potential. A welcoming, safe and inclusive environment for everyone is not only a moral imperative of every community, but it also directly impacts student success. We know that key factors influencing our student retention rates are campus social climate, a culture of inclusive excellence and the student’s academic experience.

We have had success in attracting under-represented students through our pre-collegiate programs. And we have found success in graduating diverse students with the support of our academic neighborhoods such as the Ethnic Living and Learning Community and the Chancellor’s Leadership Studies Residential Academic Program, as well as the multiple programs in CU LEAD Alliance.

But there is a difference between diversity and inclusivity, and that’s where your very important work comes in. This evening we honor the victories and the quiet heroism of those who work to build community on campus.

  • Faculty who take time to work with a student who’s facing a challenge.
  • Students who stand up – both personally and collectively – for the cause of equity.
  • Counselors who make themselves available at a moment’s notice when a student calls.
  • Students who cross racial and cultural lines to reach out to a classmate.
  • Faculty who make sure their courses include diverse perspectives.
  • Administrators who place a high priority on investing in diversity.
  • Alumni who contribute their time and financial resources for the success of those who come after them.
  • And students who overcome personal hardship and cultural barriers to graduate from the university.

You all have my great admiration.

I always liked the way business leader and best-selling author Max De Pree, framed the importance of a diverse community.  De Pree, the author of Leadership is an Art, and the retired CEO of a Fortune 500 company said, “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity.  We need to give each other space, so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

That is my wish for our community – on the campus and far beyond. I believe that together we can make it happen. I would like to leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

Thank you all for your hard work in promoting equity and excellence at the University of Colorado.