RU celebrates diversity and inclusion
Radford University celebrated its commitment to diversity with a reception Nov. 6 in the Covington Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, and saw President Penelope W. Kyle specifically acknowledged for her leadership in supporting diversity at RU.
President Kyle and the university’s Diversity and Equity Action Committee co-hosted the event, which was designed to be "a display of commitment to diversity for Radford University," according to Crasha Perkins, director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion and co-chair of the Diversity and Equity Action Committee. Special guests included "AJ" Robinson, member of the Radford University Board of Visitors.
The second annual event featured music, dance and a keynote address from Nathaniel L. Bishop ‘88, president of Jefferson College of Health Sciences (JCHS) in Roanoke.
Following opening remarks from Deneen L. Evans, an assistant professor in the Waldron College School of Social Work and co-chair of the Diversity and Equity Action Committee, RU's Deliverance Gospel Choir enthused the gathering with a spirited rendition of the gospel hymn, "Oh, Happy Day."
After the performance, Kyle, who said the song brought tears to her eyes, welcomed the gathering and spoke of the importance of reflecting on RU’s progress toward a culture of inclusion.
The president acknowledged the significance of the Diversity Reception’s location, the Covington Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, which is named for former RU President Douglas Covington and his wife Beatrice. “This building is a monument to, recognition of, and a tribute to Dr. Douglas Covington and his beloved wife, Bea,” Kyle said. “This is where we belong for this celebration. He brought so much diversity to this campus and was so beloved.”
In her address, Kyle said, “It is our calling to help prepare our students for the world, one in which they will live, grow and hopefully prosper. And that world is one that is becoming increasingly more diverse.”
Kyle, the university’s first female president, highlighted RU’s progress toward embracing individual differences and said the university is more diverse than ever before in its history, saying that nearly 30 percent of this fall’s incoming freshmen class identified themselves as ethnic minorities.
With 12 flags representing the home countries of RU’s international students providing a backdrop, the president spoke of the number of international students on the RU campus, as well as the many faiths represented at the university.
President Kyle also noted that nearly 39 percent of RU’s students are first-generation college students, and that RU offers more than 250 student clubs and organizations.
During her presentation, Perkins informed the gathering of RU’s numerous accomplishments, “points of pride,” and directives aimed toward diversity in the past year. She gave kudos to the faculty, staff and students “for a job well done.”
Robinson then joined the officers of the RU Diversity and Equity Action Committee (DEAC) in surprising President Kyle with their presentation of the inaugural DEAC Award for Diversity Leadership. The award’s inscription read: “President Penelope W. Kyle A beacon of light: Transforming Radford into a beautiful mosaic. 2013 DEAC Honoree.”
In presenting the award to President Kyle, Evans said, “As a result of your leadership -- there is a sense of momentum on campus these days about dealing with the challenges of diversity and justice.”
“I am so honored by this recognition,” said Kyle after the award. “This is really about what all of us have done together. I am so proud of our progress and accomplishments as a community, in making Radford University a more diverse and inclusive place to learn and work – a place for all to thrive.”
Before Bishop delivered the keynote address, a dancer from La Sociedad Hispanica took the stage and delighted the crowd with a brief performance.
Bishop then took the floor for his keynote address and concluded with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., saying “’Make a career of humanity, commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live.’” Bishop concluded, “I think that’s a cause we can all strive for and it’s something we can all do as we together make a difference and make this a better place for everyone to live in.”
Brooke Chang, RU’s director of Diversity and Equity, summarized the significance of the reception: “The successful 2nd Annual Diversity Reception was a celebration of diversity at RU, particularly as this semester is the greatest diversity ever represented on our campus. As our campus becomes more diverse, we need to continue to acknowledge and accept our similarities and differences of all in the RU community towards an environment of inclusion.”