Dr. Valerie Lee Featured in Diversity Q&A
With a large variety of cultures, races and nationalities represented at Andrews University, the topic of diversity remains crucially important to Andrews students and faculty. The Diversity Council here on campus has been tasked with sustaining diversity within the student body and ensuring discourse on diversity in the student body, as well as ensuring respect of those differences that students have in accordance to their beliefs and backgrounds. To open up discussions on diversity, as well as provide the firsthand perspective of an experienced Diversity Officer, the Andrews University Diversity Council and the Department of English hosted a Diversity Q&A with Dr. Valerie Lee on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the Newbold Auditorium in Buller Hall.
Lee, who currently serves The Ohio State University as Acting Chair of the Department of African American and African Studies, began the Q&A by giving a description of her role as a Diversity Officer for The Ohio State University, explaining that the hardest part of being a Diversity Officer is that, “the work is never done. When you think you’ve solved something you really haven’t. Every year a new student generation arrives bringing new demographics and beliefs.”
Lee also expressed the need for Andrews University to have a Diversity Officer.
Dr. Monique Pittman, Professor of English and Director of the J.N. Andrews Honors Program, agreed, stating that, “We have an amazing diverse population of students, we are perhaps lacking someone to guide that more intentionally. Particularly, I resonate with the idea that we need to be balancing our representation on the professoriate.”
Pittman added, “Dr. Lee made a great argument about how diversity should be rooted in our ethics as Christians and our desire to be certain that the face on our campus, who has power, reflects the diversity of our student body.”
Several other faculty members presented the need for diversifying Andrew University’s faculty body, including Dr. Harvey Burnett, Chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and one of the event’s moderators. He noted his desire for the diversity of Andrews’ professoriate while co-moderating the event.
Considering this overarching need for diversity, Jonathan Doram (senior, music education) said, “The simple presence of diversity does not ensure racial understanding and awareness-even if it creates that illusion. Critical dialogue and presentations such as this talk are absolutely crucial on our campus and should be promoted.”
Doram continued, “Considering the especially divisive rhetoric we have been exposed to during this political cycle, open discussions that build empathy and compassion for our fellow human beings, regardless of race, should continue to be a focal point and goal of the Andrews community.”
Ryan Atkins (Master of English, second year student) said, “Everyone has an opinion on diversity nowadays, so it was interesting to hear from someone highly credentialed on the topic. There was a lot to digest, but a few takeaways that stuck with me was [Lee’s] framing of diversity. Thinking of increasing diversity as solely a problem to be solved is missing the point—to paraphrase Dr. Lee, you can't have a thriving 21st century institution without talking about excellence through diversity.”
Danni Francis (senior, English) also stated her appreciation for Lee’s perspective and advice.
Francis (senior, English) said, “For me, Dr. Lee’s lecture provided insightful information on the ways in which our own university can improve in the area of diversity.”
Francis also recognized the Department of English for co-hosting the Diversity Q&A.
Francis said, “I’m happy to be a part of a department that provides programs like this on our campus.”