The festivities began on Monday with two panel discussions and a speech from UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport.
The University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information is hosting the annual Diversity and Inclusion Week during Monday, Sept. 25 through Thursday, Sept. 28.
While the celebration is a four-day long event, each day has three different sessions to cater to various student schedules.
This year’s theme is R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and every session incorporates that theme in some way.
Monday kicked off the week with a morning session titled “Mental Health and Media Effects” with Dr. Catherine Luther and UT student Tala Shatara as moderators. CNN contributor, psychologist and media analyst, Dr. Erik Fisher, was the panelist for the session.
The session covered the issue of mental health in the United States and how social media relates and feeds into that concept. Dr. Fisher talked about how the human race has let social media impact our lives so much that it is changing our brains and causing humans to feel more depressed than ever before.
Dr. Fisher gave some tips for changing habits and creating a better life. The full session can be found online here.
The afternoon session, “Be Comfortable In Your Own Skin” featured five student panelists: Justin Crawford, Ronnie Little, Kayla Parker, Crue Smith and Michelle Rodriguez. Student Lisa Oliver and Director of CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society, Alice Wirth, were the moderators for the session.
This discussion gave the panelists the chance to share their life stories about their personal challenges growing up and what they still go through today. They also talked about how and when they became comfortable being themselves.
In addition to the morning session, the full afternoon discussion can be found online as well.
To end the day, UT Chancellor, Beverly J. Davenport, was the keynote speaker. Her speech focused on ‘being different,’ an important topic to her and the university.
“Differences change the conversation,” Davenport said. “[differences] makes us more compassionate.”
Chancellor Davenport emphasized how important having a diverse campus is to the university. She talked about her goals to make UT more diverse and make it more welcoming for students from all over the world.
She said it is important to surround yourself with a diverse group of people, but also with some people who are similar to you.
“I wish I could go through this life without a body,” Davenport said. “We make so many judgments about what people look like.”
Furthermore, Davenport said that it is crucial to not judge people based on how they look on the outside, because you never know what’s on the inside. She said it is important to be accepting and loving of everyone no matter what.
Davenport also talked about how people need to be mindful of what they say to each other because words matter and can have a lasting effect on someone.
Davenport talked about her goals for the university and how she wants the students to help her make a difference.
“The students will lead us, [you] just have to listen,” Davenport said.
She answered questions from students about how to have a voice and make a change at the university. As someone who holds a communications degree, she found a way to connect to everyone in the audience.
Following her Q&A session, Chancellor Davenport thanked the Diversity and Leaders Society for having her and the students and faculty for coming out.
“I can’t applaud you all enough for being different with me, I can’t do it without you,” Davenport said.
A full schedule of all the events going on throughout the week can be found online.
Edited by Kaitlin Flippo