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Diversity Week Focused on Sport and Cultural Change

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By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotola

Florida Board of Governors member Ava Parker spoke to UCF students Friday, Oct. 20, about the importance of diversity in higher education.

The Jacksonville native and attorney spoke about the great strides made in granting people access to higher education.

"I'm not saying everyone is where they need to be -- I'd be naïve to believe so -- but it would be wrong, and unfair, to deny that a transformation has taken place," Parker said. "University admissions officers no longer scheme to keep black students out. In fact, they compete to recruit them."

Much work still needs to be done, she said. Parker focused on how few minority faculty members are in the state university system. Of the 9,298 faculty at the 11 universities, 1,172 are black or Hispanic, she said. She also implored faculty members to seek out talented students of color.

"Find them. Nurture them. Encourage them. Bring them into the academic orbit," Parker told her audience at the Student Union. "Show them the excitement of study and research and high-level learning. Make them see that a graduate degree is within their reach and is, in fact, in their future. For without graduate students, there is no faculty. That's the bridge we need to build if we are to have a truly diverse faculty."

The Diversity Initiatives Office, which coordinated Diversity Week, called it a success.

About 500 people attended the kick off breakfast, which featured UCF Professor Richard Lapchick -- a well-known expert on sports and social justice. Lapchick is an endowed chair and director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at UCF.

Another 100 students attended the Diversity and Disparities in Healthcare Conference Oct. 18, one of several events organized during UCF's Diversity Week. Guest speakers talked to students about the disparities in access to health care, both well-publicized factors such as race and poverty and other less-known contributors such as the aging of America.

This year's theme is "Diversity, Sport and Cultural Change" but topics covered throughout the week included religion, education, law and the arts.

"Diversity Week is about celebrating humanity in general and developing among our faculty, staff, and students the cultural competencies to become a more inclusive and accepting community," said Valarie King, director of the Office of Diversity Initiatives. "The intent is for us to gain a better understanding about the interconnectedness of one person to the other."

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