This award recognizes an office, program, or department that has demonstrated outstanding leadership and made consistent contributions to advancing diversity and inclusion at UT. The office, program, or department receiving this award has implemented diversity and inclusion initiatives that are linked to their mission and are sustainable.
To be considered for this award, units must meet the following criteria:
- Offices, programs, or departments must submit a narrative, which clearly outlines their diversity achievements.
- Preference will be given to departments or units that sponsor activities with other campus units.
The 2021 winner is the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology (EPP) Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Marva was a recognized diversity professional who worked tirelessly with administrators, faculty, staff, and students to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion at UT.
She joined the university in 1990 as a specialist in affirmative action. In 1994, she became the assistant director of Diversity Resources and Educational Services—which was later renamed the Office of Equity and Diversity—before becoming director in 1999. In 2013, Marva was promoted to associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. She passed away on February 6, 2014.
2021: Entomology & Plant Pathology (EPP) Diversity and Inclusion Committee
The EPP Diversity and Inclusion Committee is a small unit with a big heart and a long list of accomplishments that have promoted diversity, equity, and inclusion to openly demonstrate that everyone matters and belongs. This standing committee is chaired by Becky Trout Fryxell and 2020–2021 members are Sarah Boggess, Zachariah Hansen, Swati Mishra, Tara Rickman, Meg Staton, Jennifer Tsuruda, Mark Windham, DeWayne Shoemaker, Denita Hadziabdic Guerry, and Mikayla Wilson. The goal is to embed diversity and inclusion into the how departments members and visitors engage, by championing diversity and inclusion in research, teaching, and Extension activities. Accomplishments include, but are not limited to, a needs assessment of activities, a D&I booth at Ag Day, a Get Diverse website, D&I statements for two international scientific societies, virtual events for Pride month, enhancing D&I in the classroom featuring scientists of color and women, the development of a racial understanding book club, first Friday lunches, and other learning opportunities for employees such as STRIDE and the Intercultural Development Inventory. This is the story of a small, persistent unit that continues to make larger and larger impacts in their tireless efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in our campus community and through our daily work.
2020: The Pride Center
The Pride Center, the campus LGBTQ+ resource center, provides a variety of student support services focused on gender and sexuality. Bonnie Johnson serves as the center’s coordinator, joined by graduate assistant Ciara Gazaway. Celebrating its 10th year at UT in 2020, the Pride Center remains dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community at UT through education, advocacy, and empowerment. Over the past two years, the center has trained more than 500 Volunteers in its re-envisioned Safe Zone at UT educational workshop series with only two facilitators, in addition to expanding annual events including the Lavender Graduation, Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil, and Friendsgiving.
2019: Office of Multicultural Student Life
Thanks to the Office of Multicultural Student Life, the campus dialogue about diversity and inclusion is going beyond buzzwords to foster rich conversations and lessons about cultural identity. The office’s Diversity Educators, a group of 24 students who lead programs for classes and student organizations, has revamped the Diversity Dialogue series and symposium to be more relevant and engaging. One recent dialogue involved viewing music videos that spoke to diversity, social justice, and specific movements like Black Lives Matter. Another focused on men of color and mental health. The Diversity Dialogue Symposium, held last fall, addressed timely topics ranging from racism in the LGBTQ+ community to the racialization of immigration to national protests for freedom of speech and social justice. As one staff member said, the Office of Multicultural Student Life “has made great strides to continue to improve upon and update their diversity and inclusion efforts for all students.”
2018: UT Libraries Diversity Committee
The UT Libraries Diversity Committee, made up of students, faculty and staff, has demonstrated continual campus leadership in diversity through professional development, educational programs, and wellness events, as well as through diversity-centered research presented at the local, state, and national level. The committee’s Diversity Resident program has launched the successful careers of more than 15 minority librarians. The committee also puts on the “Difficult Conversation” lunch and learn series, which provides a safe space for students, faculty, and staff to discuss topics ranging from oppression and privilege to stress management. Other efforts include the Culture Corner, an exhibit exploring issues related to diversity and inclusion using the library’s research collections. The committee participates in the Black Issues Conference and routinely partners with and supports student groups and their efforts to advance diversity and inclusion.
2017: Department of Sociology
The Department of Sociology faced trying times this past year as outside forces worked to undermine UT’s commitment to diversity. Nevertheless, the department has remained a leading advocate for diversity on campus, working with student groups and individuals to raise awareness of diversity issues and support UT’s diversity institutions and personnel. The department is launching a new concentration in critical race and ethnic studies, and it organized the New Directions in Critical Criminology conference in 2016 to examine the unequal treatment of disadvantaged populations. The department’s curriculum addresses issues related to race, gender, and globalization, with faculty scholarship in areas including transformative justice, immigration, and inequities in worker conditions in global tourism. Its student body increasingly reflects its commitment to diversity: last year, 80 percent of incoming graduate students in sociology were from underrepresented groups.
2016: Educational Advancement Program
The Educational Advancement Program is making great strides in the university’s ongoing efforts to enhance campus diversity and inclusivity.
The EAP is a federally–funded program that provides supportive services to first-generation students, low-income students, and students with disabilities. It has been in existence at UT since 1978 and falls under the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
This program currently serves 250 students and has changed many of their lives in remarkable ways. EAP staff are committed to advancing the education of their diverse student participants through academic advising, tutoring and workshops, and other resources.
Without the resources provided by the EAP, many of these students would not be able to attend college. Because of the motivation they received from the EAP, many of them have realized they can go on to graduate school.
“These classes helped close the gap in education, which seemed like a never-ending reality for many of us,” a former EAP graduate wrote in his nomination letter.
2015: Haslam College of Business Office of Diversity and Community
The Haslam College of Business Office of Diversity and Community is leading the way in the university’s ongoing efforts to enhance campus diversity and inclusivity. The well-established program celebrates the efforts of students, faculty, and staff involved in broadening the viewpoints and dialogue about diversity. Faculty and staff encourage students to better understand that diversity means more than race and that building a greater awareness of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds is critical to working in today’s global marketplace. Central to the office’s mission is recruiting diverse applicants. The office’s annual ten-day summer camp—Business Education for Talented Students, or BETS—is a cornerstone program that exposes students from underrepresented or economically challenged high schools to the business world with the help of area business partners. More than 150 students have participated; sixty-four enrolled in UT, and forty of those ended up majoring in business. The office also facilitates the college’s partnership with the Knoxville Area Urban League’s National Achievers Program, which provides high-achieving students with opportunities for personal and professional development. From its newsletter and diversity job fairs to staff workshops and college-wide Safe Zone training, the Office of Diversity and Community is making a difference every day.
2014: College of Communication and Information
The College of Communication and Information, headed by Dean Mike Wirth, is the recipient of the first Marva Rudolph Diversity Award for the breadth and depth of its diversity efforts on both the college and campus levels. Since 2007, the college’s Diversity Student Leaders Society has provided “an open and accepting community for students of all backgrounds, races, genders, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations” and uses educational opportunities to promote understanding, according to the nomination. The DSLS is open to all interested students, both in the college and across the university. In just the past year, the society’s major events have included a Diversity and Inclusion Week featuring keynote speakers, open forums, discussion sessions, and workshops; an Experience Diversity Banquet honoring a prominent individual who has demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion; philanthropy projects for local at-risk groups; professional sessions on resume writing and interviewing skills; and leadership training and development. The college’s leadership has worked with its faculty to promote diversity in their classrooms and their coursework, and has developed ways to measure and track their progress. The college also has boosted its recruitment and hiring of diverse faculty members and its identification and cultivation of diverse candidates for future faculty positions. A Diversity Committee has been formed to make recommendations on how the college can reach its diversity goals. These efforts also have resulted in greater fundraising success, with the college’s development team securing external gifts to support its diversity programming.