Akron HEEDs diversity

By Dylan Reynolds, Writer

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine recently announced that The University of Akron will receive its prestigious HEED Award.  

The HEED Award stands for Higher Education Excellence in Diversity and is awarded to schools across the United States for their efforts in promoting diversity in higher education.

The presentation of the 2015 award marks the fourth consecutive year UA has received this honor.

According to the magazine’s website, the HEED Award “measures an institution’s level of achievement and intensity of commitment in regard to broadening diversity and inclusion on campus.”  

This year, 91 institutions will receive the award.  Akron is among seven universities in Ohio receiving the award.

Lee Gill, UA’s associate vice president for Inclusion and Equity, said he believes that a variety of campus programs are the reason the University consistently takes home the prize.

Among those are events targeted at particular ethnic groups, such as The Ohio Latino Education Summit and the “nationally recognized” Black Male Summit, which Gill notes drew over 1,600 participants the previous year.

There are also programs designed to empower women, such as The Women Trailblazers and the Women’s Wellness Fair.

In addition to these programs, which are targeted at specific groups, the University offers an array of activities that any student can participate in.  These programs include Rethinking Race: Black, White & Beyond, as well as Diversity Week, which was held last week.

Gill believes that diversity is essential in today’s America, where demographics are rapidly shifting.

“Our nation is changing, and our higher education institutions need to reflect this diversity. More than half of all U.S. babies today are people of color, and by 2050 our nation will have no clear racial or ethnic majority,” said Gill.

Gill hopes to empower the current minorities to rise, because “communities of color are tomorrow’s leaders, and we need to better prepare our future workforce.”

Gill hopes that the University’s programs will introduce students to unfamiliar cultures.

Many UA students come from backgrounds where diversity is scarce, leading to needless tension or an uncertainty of how to behave around different types of people.

Programs such as Diversity Week are designed to alleviate that tension.

“[Diversity Week] provides the opportunity to demonstrate to students… what it means to engage with people of different races, genders, ethnicities, physical capabilities, life experiences and more,” Gill said.

The University’s push for diversity also coincides with its desire to prepare students for the “real world” of careers.

“The world that we now live and work in is increasingly global, [and] our students must be prepared not only with an outstanding academic education but with global competencies that will prepare them to compete and succeed,” Gill said.

The University’s diversity programs have been vastly successful, leading to the four HEED Awards, but Gill acknowledges that more progress needs to be made.

He said lagging graduation rates among certain demographics is a place to begin.  He also suggested furthering outreach efforts to the Hispanic and LGBT communities.

According to Gill, the University must continually improve.

“Diversity is a journey, not a destination,” Gill said.

The 2015 HEED Awards will be officially announced in the November issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.