I speak often of the close connection between diversity and excellence, the belief that we will be a stronger, more effective university – in education, scholarship, outreach and economic development – when we more fully represent the society we serve.
Last week’s event celebrating our Hatch Prize recipient, Professor Theresa Martinez, was potent testimony to the significance of faculty diversity for institutional effectiveness and impact. The Calvin S. & JeNeal N. Hatch Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding member of our faculty who makes exceptional contributions to teaching. Professor Martinez was recognized by many current and former students as a remarkable teacher and mentor, and as a role model for students of color. I heard the students’ voices very clearly; engagement with faculty from diverse backgrounds enhances learning and fortifies students’ belief in their potential.
Undergraduate student groups have been active throughout the Spring semester in expanding the reach of the U to high school students from diverse backgrounds. Three student groups, AASA, MEChA, and PISA, hosted high school conferences that brought hundreds of prospective 9th-12th graders to campus. The Black Student Union (BSU) will host a high school conference for students and families on Saturday, May 10. Like Professor Martinez, student conference organizers serve as models for those who may be the first in their families to pursue higher education, and make the U more accessible and welcoming.
Universities are designed to be places where people of different backgrounds and views come together to learn, innovate, and advance society. This brings with it some natural tension as divergent perspectives come into contact. Yet, public universities serve as a central place where talented, hard-working people from all backgrounds advance, founded on a belief in the “right to rise.” We fulfill our public mission when we expand diversity in our faculty, when we reach out to welcome talented students from all backgrounds, and when we include many voices in our campus dialogues.