University earns high rank in diversity

By Staff Writer Taylor Simpson

Every year, Minority Access, Inc. chooses universities to honor for their commitment to diversity. UNA was among those chosen for 2017.

“When I look at UNA, I see an inclusive collection of cultures, ideas, people and traditions,” said Amber Fite-Morgan, UNA’s chief diversity officer and attorney.

Minority Access, Inc. showcased chosen universities at the 18th annual “National Role Models Conference,” which took place Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 in Washington D.C.

The conference assembles high achieving university officials, students and alumni, as well as institutions that have been exemplary in producing minority researchers, according to Minority Access, Inc.’s website.

Fite-Morgan said diversity is important to college campuses.

“Diversity expands worldliness, enhances social development, prepares students for future career success, promotes creative thinking and enriches perspectives,” she said.

Troy University, The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama at Huntsville were also among Alabama colleges recognized.

UNA received the same honor in 2016.

“I think it speaks to our commitment toward advancing diversity and UNA’s continued efforts toward that goal,” Fite-Morgan said.

Joan Williams, director of the Office of Diversity and Institutional Equity, attended the conference in both 2016 and 2017 to accept the formal recognition.

“Our office is pleased to know that our efforts, along with others, have been recognized by Minority Access,” Williams said.

ODIE seeks to provide a welcoming and inclusive living, learning and working environment that supports diversity, equity and inclusion, according to its web page on UNA’s site.

“Twenty-two and a half percent of our current enrollment represents diversity,” Fite-Morgan said.

UNA hosts international students from many countries including Japan, Saudi Arabia, India, South Korea and Kenya. There are at least 25 other countries represented in the student population on campus.

In the spring 2017 semester, there were more than 250 international students at UNA, according to UNA International Affairs.

Junior Catt Reza said she thinks UNA encourages diversity.

“The university has a good number of programs and organizations that help cultivate diversity on campus,” she said.

She said UNA has an on-campus club for nearly any minority group and these organizations make people aware of other cultures.

Ernestine Davis, the director of the Presidential Mentors Academy, said she knows UNA can do better.

“I don’t see (diversity) when I look at certain areas of campus,” she said. “Is there diversity in the faculty, staff and administration?”

Davis has worked with PMA to support underrepresented students at UNA for 20 years.

She said she wonders if UNA is retaining students of color in the total student population or if they are not graduating.

Graduate Student Jeff Williams said he sees diversity on UNA’s campus.

“When you walk around campus, you’re going to see all different types of people interacting with each other,” he said.

He said it is obvious to him the university is committed to diversity.

“The University is committed to building an inclusive and diverse environment,” Fite-Morgan said in a university press release. “Each student, faculty and staff member has the right to inclusion, respect and a voice in the UNA community.”

UNA is in the process of adding a global learning center to campus to foster a sense of international appreciation.