Georgia Gwinnett College hosts events to promote understanding, inclusion
By Collin Elder
In all cultures, food is a way to connect with others when it is shared. The meal is a staple feature that encourages understanding, cooperation and togetherness.
Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) is harnessing that concept to celebrate its differences and to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the higher education space through a series of dinners that began Feb. 1.
“The benefits of building an inclusive and supportive workplace are well researched in literature,” said Danette Edwards, diversity equity and inclusion program coordinator, who organized the campus events.
“Our goal in initiating this project is to promote inclusive excellence among our GGC faculty, in teaching and learning across the curriculum.”
The dinners will continue weekly through March 2. Each week, a different school within the college will host the dinners featuring guest speakers from GGC and the community. Each speaker will discuss topics such as inclusive education practices; challenges, activism and advocacy; and creating an inclusive mindset in dealing with generational differences.
Dr. Maria Fernandez attended the first dinner where guest speaker Dr. Marshall Shepherd, from the University of Georgia, led a discussion about inequities associated with climate change. She thought it was a great first step towards introducing diverse perspectives on various topics.
“I came here tonight because I’m proud of the diversity of the student population, and I want to encourage GGC’s faculty and staff to grow alongside them,” said Fernandez. “In discussing climate change, Dr. Shepherd did wonderfully in outlining the ways race and color can impact the most vulnerable populations.”
Fernandez, who teaches environmental science at GGC, listened as Shepherd talked about the inequities that have impacted primarily Black communities, such as the ones found in New Orleans, that were less supported or able to bounce back from something like a major hurricane as opposed to the wealthier parts of the city.
This hit home with GGC senior communications specialist LaKeidra Veal Hill, who is a native of the metro New Orleans area and whose family experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, among others.
“Hill said that many communities have yet to recover after 17 years, and many people permanently relocated as a result of the destruction.”
“Dr. Shepherd challenged us to view diversity, equity and inclusion in a meaningful and intentional way,” she said. “The diversity dinners will shed light on topics that are not normally linked to DEI. Faculty can share these viewpoints in the classroom to enhance student learning.”
While the dinners are currently open to GGC faculty and staff, organizers hope to expand the audiences in the future.
“We’re so excited to see faculty and staff working together to broadcast this message of diversity across campus,” said Edwards. “We want to promote cross-campus engagement and provide opportunities to examine contemporary content for our amazing faculty to share in the classroom.”
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