Tech boasts diversity symposium

On Friday, Sept. 17, students and faculty attended the second annual Diversity Symposium, where they were given the opportunity to analyze and discuss pressing diversity issues on and around Tech’s campus.

Started last year and modeled after the annual conferences held by the Georgia Tech National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program, the Diversity Symposium was intended to provide an open forum for discussion and analysis of diversity issues on and outside campus.

“The purpose of the event is to set aside time for the campus academic community to focus on issues of diversity as they affect our campus and national trends,” said Dr. Carol Colatrella, co-director of the Center for the Study of Women, Science, and Technology and co-chair of the event. “It is important to look beyond our own campus to learn what works, what doesn’t work and learn best practices from other organizations.”

With a minority population of 34 percent, Tech already has a variety of groups that address diversity, including ADVANCE, Hispanic Initiatives@GT, and the Office of Minority Education (OMED).

The Diversity Symposium was begun in 2009 by then Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Gilda Barabino and has since seen more participation from various student groups at Tech.

This year’s event allowed for members of these organizations to meet with one another and exchange ideas.

“Providing opportunities for candid conversation about diversity-related issues enables members of the campus community to share concerns and to collaborate on solutions,” said Pearl Alexander, Senior Director for HR and Diversity Management and co-chair of the symposium, “This year’s Diversity Symposium was a great success in that a broad spectrum of constituencies were represented and heard. Good ideas were generated and we had participation from the highest ranks in the organization from a faculty, student, and staff perspective.”

The morning of the event featured several notable speakers. This year’s keynote speaker Dr. Ricardo Azziz, President of Medical College of Georgia, spoke about how technologically advanced, modern universities can address the challenges associated with diversity.

“His remarks offered advice to students, staff and faculty as well as outlining a philosophy of diversity that has supported his career success,” Colatrella said. “Most interesting were the comparisons from the medical field and the issues of equality that face physicians as well as professionals in scientific and technological fields.”

The morning discussion also included a question-and-answer session with all the participants. During the symposium luncheon, participants were given three topics and told to discuss them in relation to the future of diversity at Tech and the Strategic Plan.

The topics included how does an inclusive community help the Georgia Institute of Technology meet its goal as an international hub for education, research and innovation; what inclusion principles and practices will need to be put in place over the next one to five years; how do we maximize the international and intercultural learning resources we have on campus; and how do we leverage our internal talent more effectively in support of our diversity goals?

“The three lunch topics were chosen to reflect the intense interest of the Georgia Tech community in refining the principles and vision of the campus strategic plan, “ said Amelia Gambino, Interim Associate Vice President of Communications & Marketing and Director of Campus Communications Services. “Many participants reported being energized by their lunch discussions and thanked the Diversity Symposium committee members for the event.”

This year’s symposium had 179 participants in attendance and offered expanded programs.

“We also put more of an emphasis this year on including students and staff,” Colatrella said. “Last year’s Symposium was more of a faculty discussion. While keeping the event as one led by our faculty, we felt it was important to expand that dialogue as we work toward building a more inclusive campus culture.”

Much of the discussion generated was recorded by event coordinators and participants were able to provide feedback. The organizers plan to integrate all of the ideas discussed into the fabric of Tech’s culture.

“Notes will be compiled and used to help create the agendas for the Office of Institute Diversity,” Alexander said. “Ideas [were] collected and analyzed by individuals working in the Office of Institutional Diversity and shared with the leadership.”