Two years ago, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green made a pledge to increase workforce diversity. This week, the UNL community had the chance to join him.
By taking the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion pledge on April 2, 2018, Green made UNL a signatory campus and a leader in workforce diversity. Students, faculty and staff could commit to that effort on Wednesday by walking into the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts at any time to watch an informative video about the pledge and then use one of three computers to take the pledge online.
Nkenge Friday, assistant vice chancellor of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said the event shows UNL is moving forward and making progress, and that there is interest in both diversity and inclusion.
“I think that it’s not only us saying this is our pledge to you but our students saying this is our pledge for our peers,” Friday said. “We’re in this collectively as an institution, so we’re all pledging to do better with our actions, our words [and] our behaviors.”
UNL employs thousands of students each year, according to Charlie Foster, assistant vice chancellor for Student Affairs and director of OASIS and the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center. While students are not explicitly included in the program, Karen Kassebaum, director of staff diversity and inclusion for Human Resources, said the university is working on expanding it to them.
“Every day we’re seeking to help students better themselves,” Foster said. “This is another way that we’re helping to bring them along.”
Jessie Peter, graduate assistant in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and a doctoral candidate in Child, Youth and Family Studies, was one of the first faces visitors saw when they came to take the pledge. She said the event was a step to acknowledging that no one is perfect, but those who take the pledge are agreeing to address their own biases.
She said helping attendees take the pledge was a way to help others know they are not alone, no matter what mistakes or road bumps may occur.
“It’s almost like showing that, ‘Hey, this is okay. This is a safe space because not everybody is one the same page and we’re learning together. We’ll help you out,’” she said.
Riana Prudente, an OASIS peer mentor, also helped people take the pledge and said she sees it as UNL finally taking an initiative to support diversity and inclusion on campus.
“To be able to see that the university really cares about students like me shows a lot,” she said. “Whether it’s physically or taking the pledge, I know they’re doing so much work behind the scenes. Me being able to see the product now and helping people take the pledge — it’s such a cool opportunity to do that.”
Prudente and Kassebaum said they were excited to see UNL join an initiative beneficial to students and the whole UNL community.
“[Today] touched me in a special way because it just means that there are a lot of people that do care about diversity and inclusion,” she said.
UNL representatives for CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion will continue to hold events throughout the month of February, according to Friday, and the UNL community can continue to take the pledge throughout the month online. With the events coinciding with Black History month, she said the following weeks will illuminate and shine a light on the importance of diversity and inclusion.
“We have underrepresented groups and populations throughout our institution, across our country,” Friday said. “But for us to say we’re dedicating a month to learn more, to educate ourselves on what it means to really be intentional in our actions and our measures — a month is great, but we will have this as something that we’re going to obviously practice throughout the year.”