The College of Communication and Information’s ninth annual Diversity and Inclusion Week, September 24-27, featured two keynote sessions including the Monday night keynote with Alison Bethel McKenzie, executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Bethel McKenzie, set the tone for the week by outlining SPJ’s efforts to educate, inform and uphold the SPJ Code of Ethics within the profession while dealing with the many challenges facing the news media in today’s hostile environment. She also stressed the importance of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment and the critical role journalism plays in a democratic society.
The week’s sessions focused on the theme, “Let’s Talk: Listen, Learn and Lead.” During the “Immigration: Capturing the Dream” session, panelists shared their inspirational stories and answered questions about their immigration experiences. Sal DiMaria, UT professor emeritus, was asked, “What was your American dream?” His answer was simply, “I didn’t have a dream. America IS the dream.” Haseeb Qureshi, a first generation American of Pakistani descent, was asked how his life was impacted by his immigrant parents. He said, “My parents taught us that education is important, to treat people with respect, to always be honest and remember everything you have is a privilege.”
On Wednesday, the, “Coping with Life Issues” session featured three students that had successfully overcome dramatic obstacles. The panel also included Dr. Elizabeth Baker from the UT Student Health Center who gave information about the resources available to students facing a variety of difficult challenges. The session was poignant and affirmed that there is hope and help available. As one attendee commented, “It takes courage to share what you’ve been through, which opens the door for others to become open and optimistic as well.”
The second keynote session was a panel of UT student athletes: John Fulkerson, Cheridene Green, Lamonte Turner and Grant Williams. They offered honest, straight-forward answers to questions asked by the session moderators and attendees. “We don’t have the privileges some people think we have,” said Williams. “You can think of it as a full-time job. We have to work in order to go to school. It’s not easy.” Fulkerson added, “Some professors are willing to work with us on our assignments in consideration of our travel and playing schedules and some are not. We just have to deal with it as it comes.” All four athletes agreed they would like their fellow students to view them as peers and potential friends rather than asking for photos and autographs. Al Lesar covered the athletes panel session and posted a story on Knox News, https://www.knoxnews.com/story/sports/college/university-of-tennessee/mens-basketball/2018/10/03/how-do-ut-vols-basketball-players-deal-social-media-pressure-lamonte-turner-grant-williams-tennessee/1449479002/.
The week was capped off with the CCI Diversity Festival, an all-campus celebration of diversity on Thursday evening that included music, dance and food. Student groups offered a number of fun activities including corn hole contests, tie-dye t-shirt creation, mini-rock painting and more. The complete Diversity and Inclusion Week schedule can be found at https://www.cci.utk.edu/cci-diversity-inclusion-week-2018.
Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Monica Kast wrote a story about the week at https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/education/2018/09/24/ut-kicks-off-diversity-and-inclusion-week-series-panels/1380824002/.