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Diversity Gets Electric

Wirth AponteWhat do the theme from “Aladdin,” barbeque, an inspiring keynote speaker, an auction and the Electric and Cha Cha Slides have in common? All were the eclectic components of CCI’s annual Experience Diversity Banquet held on Feb. 25 at the Bearden Banquet Hall in Knoxville.
Always a highlight event on the CCI calendar, the evening kicked off with an interpretive dance number to “A Whole New World” (the “Aladdin” theme) performed by members of the Diversity Student Leaders Society. Then, the more than 135 attendees – including employees of many major Knoxville corporations such as Scripps Networks Interactive, BB&T and the Knoxville News Sentinel as well as new UT System President Joe DiPietro and his family – enjoyed a dinner of pork barbeque from Buddy’s as well as delicious homemade pecan and sweet potato pie.
One of the focal points of the banquet was the keynote speech by Jose Aponte, director of the San Diego County Library. With its 33 branches, Aponte oversees a library system that serves a giant multicultural audience. “Mr. Aponte’s talk was truly inspiring,” said Asia Farmer, JEM ’11. “Students in the Diversity Student Leaders Society work hard to promote diversity all over campus especially in the College of Communication and Information.”
After Aponte’s speech, the event continued with an auction which helped raise additional funds to support the college’s diversity and inclusion program (a signed Pat Summit basketball garnered more cash than one signed by former coach Bruce Pearl: um, not exactly a surprise). And as always, the evening was rounded out by a raucous dance party that included a group dance-off during the ultimate party numbers, “The Electric Slide” and the “Cha Cha Slide.”
“The event was lively, creative and educational, and I especially enjoyed getting to know the students who are a part of the Diversity Student Leaders Society,” said new JEM faculty member Erin Whiteside. “The diversity banquet was a fantastic way to connect with local community members and showcase an important initiative in our College.”