Office of Diversity and Inclusion has notable impact on Mercer

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Four young women hold stuffed animals while standing in front of a Mercer mural
Diversity Day 2022

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion‘s mission is to cultivate a holistic learning environment dedicated to diversity and inclusion in an ever-evolving global society. Our vision is to raise awareness of diversity initiatives at Mercer University and create a culture of acceptance, equity, justice and access for all Mercerians.

The office develops and supports ongoing education and awareness programs for students, faculty and staff to engage the campus community on topics of diversity such as multiculturalism, equity, inclusion, identity, power and privilege.

Despite only beginning operations in mid-fall 2019, the office held over 187 events and over 78 trainings, with more than 12,910 combined attendees in the last three years.

Signature events

To produce such high numbers, the office collaborates with numerous departments to host many events throughout the year, including co-hosting the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream march and program in January, Diversity Day in April, Multicultural Mixer in August, International Day in September, and J.E.D.I. (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) Week in October.

Our signature events in for 2021-22 rallied large crowds. The year kicked off with the Living the Dream event, featuring a keynote address from Double Bear alumna Sheknita Davis, founder and CEO of The People’s Advocacy Group; Diversity Day, which gathered over 600 Mercerians; Multicultural Mixer, which ended with a private screening of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and International Day, which had over 400 attendees.

In fall 2021, the office hosted its first J.E.D.I. Week to focus on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives across campus and in the community.

The office also collaborated with Mercer Abroad and the International Bears Association for six new Coffee and Culture events. The goal of each event was to increase awareness of multiculturalism, international travel and study abroad.

Lastly, the 2020-21 Alumni Bear Talk Series highlighted informal conversations with some of Mercer’s brightest Bears. Alumni from across the country spanning diverse disciplines shared their Mercer memories and words of wisdom with current Mercerians. Alumni Bear Talk Series episodes can be viewed on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s YouTube channel.

Three young people stand outside holding up white T-shirts featuring the face of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the words: We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation
Students gather for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream march in 2022.

Community collaborations

Similar to signature events, community collaborations are at the heart of diversity, equity and inclusion. Community collaborations and outreach extend to the Macon-Bibb County, Henry County and Atlanta communities.

Significant community events the Office of Diversity and Inclusion participated in over the last three years include On the Table Macon (2021), Macon Storytellers, MacSpeaks: Equity and Inclusion (2020), and MacSpeaks: Intersectionality (2019). The MacSpeaks series included TED Talk-style events held in collaboration with Georgia Women and Wesleyan College at the Douglass Theatre and virtually with over 1,700 views.

In 2021, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion hosted the Macon Startup Week: E2 — Equity and Entrepreneurship webinar with the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce to address equity in entrepreneurship and business. The office also hosted several conversations on diversity, inclusion, equity and justice with the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, including a virtual roundtable discussion detailing “The Racial Healing Handbook” by Dr. Anneliese Singh in 2022.

Staff

Diversity, equity and inclusion work is that of the community and the campus; therefore, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion selects ambassadors, fellows and council members each year for service.

For the 2021-22 academic year, the office appointed 12 diversity and inclusion ambassadors and three diversity, equity and inclusion graduate fellows. The ambassadors produced 23 new episodes for the Mercer Mondays podcast and five new videos for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s YouTube page.

On April 20, the office graduated the inaugural members of the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, which was a group of 27 faculty, staff and students that acted on behalf of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to guide and make recommendations for diversity, inclusion and equity processes at Mercer.

Notable speakers and awards

With recommendations from the council, faculty and staff, the office has had the distinguished pleasure of hosting several national figures, including Dr. Beverly Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College; Angela Rye, political correspondent for CNN and ESPN; Rachael Cargle, activist and founder of The Loveland Foundation; and Dr. Derald Wing Sue, author and Columbia University professor. In addition, Dr. Sue provided the Mercer community with a thought-provoking webinar on microaggressions titled, “Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Making the ‘Invisible’ Visible,” which captured an audience of over 400 viewers.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion also created a Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award for students, employees and organizations that would be given out annually during the student leadership banquet. In 2022, the office selected Dr. Chinekwu Obidoa, associate professor of global health studies and Africana studies, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambassadors Ifeoma Mbanaso and Kennia Kirksey as the award’s recipients.

Four women smile stand together smiling. The three women to the left hold plaques
The 2022 recipients of the Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award were, from left, Dr. Chinekwu Obidoa, associate professor of global health studies and Africana studies, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ambassadors Kennia Kirksey and Ifeoma Mbanaso. They are pictured with Dr. Ansley Booker, director of diversity and inclusion initiatives at Mercer.

Courageous conversations

In closing, a major aspect of diversity, equity and inclusion work is having courageous conversations.

In summer 2020, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion collaborated with Mercer’s Counseling and Psychological Services for the “Let’s Start the Conversation” series. The most recent conversation discussed anti-Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander bias-motivated hate crimes, including the murder of six Asian women at local Atlanta spas.

With the hopes of sparking more continued conversations, the Mercer Social Justice Book Club began hosting spirited discussions around books and, later, movies. The book club held two movie screenings and five book club conversations this academic year. The book club also organized the Equal Justice March and Vigil with over 400 attendees in September 2020 after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.

Finally, to continue educational awareness of diversity, equity, inclusivity, accessibility and social justice issues, over the past year I wrote nine columns highlighting these issues across campus, the nation and the world for The Den.

What will year four have in store for us? Please send me recommendations and suggestions at booker_aa@mercer.edu.

A group of college students are covered in colored powder
Holi Festival 2022

 

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