Kent State rewards ‘commitment to inclusive excellence’

Daniel Moore

Participants of the university’s pilot year of “100 Commitments” were treated to free T-shirts, line dancing and live music Tuesday afternoon during “KSU Committed,” the program’s closing ceremony.

The celebration, held in the Student Multicultural Center, served to recognize the effort of the students, faculty and staff who registered and participated in the initiative.

“100 Commitments” is a yearlong diversity initiative started in celebration of Kent State’s Centennial intended to get the university community actively committed to learning about its own diversity.

Michele Davis, senior advancement associate, said “100 Commitments” was designed to both broaden the description of diversity held by most students, faculty and staff and also to make everybody feel welcome and included.

“Most people, if asked what diversity means, normally give a narrow definition,” Davis said. “We wanted to show that (diversity) is not just one or two types of people. It’s everybody.”

Davis said she felt like Kent State met its two goals through the program. A total of 1,115 people across Kent State’s eight campuses participated this year, she said.

Geraldine Hayes-Nelson, assistant vice president for Pipeline Initiatives and Diversity Programming, knew back in September, at the start of Kent State’s pilot year of “100 Commitments,” that the new program was going to make some impacts.

It was at the rehearsals for the international fashion show, “R U Kouture?!” that Hayes-Nelson said she noticed how different cultures interacted on the catwalk. After trying to model in high heels and fast-paced techno music like the American fashion majors, one of the Chinese students told everyone that wasn’t the way she learned how to model.

Soon, Hayes-Nelson said, the show incorporated soft, flowing music, parasols, Indian themes and customs and even switched gender roles.

“I began to see it wasn’t so much the events, I think, that impacted as successfully as the process of how people work together,” Hayes-Nelson said.

“People began to operate outside the box. That’s what we’re going to be recognizing.”

Greg Jarvie, vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, welcomed the crowd at “KSU Committed” and applauded the efforts of both the Multicultural Center and the participants.

“This is so important for us as a university, to really get out there and walk the walk and not just talk the talk,” Jarvie said. “Diversity is not something that goes only from October to April. This is obviously a lifelong and yearlong commitment.”

After Jarvie’s remarks, Davis awarded certificates to the university’s top three participating groups for administrative divisions, colleges, regional campuses, residence halls and student organizations.

The College of Business Administration won first for the colleges, while Allerton Apartments, Centennial Court E and Leebrick Hall won certificates for the residence halls.

“It’s no doubt that it takes commitment and sustainability,” Jarvie said. “All of our faculty, staff and students should be proud of that.”

The program ran 20 weeks, from September to April. Students, faculty and staff who registered made a commitment to increase their diversity awareness through 10 simple actions — such as watching a movie, starting a dialogue and visiting a local attraction.

There were 10 categories of diversity, each of which had two weeks devoted to it.

Participants did as many of the 10 commitments as they could during each category.

These learning experiences adhered to categories like “The Diversity of Sexual and Gender Expression” and “Socio-Economic Status,” and the category changed at the end of each two-week period. Participants tracked their progress on “commitment cards.” Those who did all 10 commitments for all 10 categories should have done 100 commitments.

Kent State will continue the program next year.

However, Davis said, certain aspects of the program need some improvement.

“We’re going to make our website friendlier,” Davis said. “We’re going to make the resource much more abundant so there’s a lot more variety that can be done, (that) a faculty member can do in their exploration of diversity.”

Hayes-Nelson also said she thought the university could distribute information more effectively by starting earlier.

“We want to make sure we get good, solid information out early enough and get the freshman class engaged,” Hayes-Nelson said. “We could probably talk to more of our faculty and get them involved before school.”

Alfreda Brown, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, said she considered the pilot year to be hugely successful because it helped her division see there are people on campus who are willing to take personal action to learn more about diversity.

“This is just incredible,” Brown said. “I just wanted to say thanks you to all of those who helped bring us to this day. 1,115 students — we thought that was just wonderful.”

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected]