ATHENS, Ohio (July 24, 2006) -- The President's Award for Excellence in Diversity has been created to highlight exemplary efforts at achieving and pushing the Ohio University mission to increase and affirm diversity.
It is something that has evolved since Ohio University President Roderick McDavis, the administration and the trustees made diversity enhancement one of the four centerpiece goals for Ohio University two years ago. Bill Smith, executive assistant to the president, discussed with others the creation of an award to stay consistent with this institutional goal.
"I had a session with President McDavis to broach the idea," Smith said. "He thought that would be something we should pursue and that it would be appropriate for the diversity office to essentially administer the award process and the award itself."
Smith said the expectation is for the award to be given annually; however, he cautioned it must be earned. Because of this important fact, he explained that there could be times when the award is not be presented for an extended period.
"There is no pressure to give out the award because we want to make sure that the recipients match up to some fairly significant criteria for having done something above and beyond their job duties or job responsibilities."
Currently, award recipients are chosen through a nomination/evaluation process. There is no formula or checklist to establish who is qualified; however, what the person carried out and the impact of their activity or idea in the university community is taken into consideration.
As a result of her panel series on affirming diversity, Katherine Ziff, associate ombudsman for Ohio University, became the first recipient of the award last fall.
"I felt very honored to receive such an award," Ziff said. "In our office (Office of the Ombuds), we felt that we wanted to do something to support President McDavis and Provost Krendl's direction in diversity. From ombudsing, we know the value of talking, listening and sharing stories and came up with the idea of the panels."
This panel series emerged from a grassroots vision of a way to celebrate the existing diversity on campus through personal narratives and stories.
"She single-handedly envisioned and organized sponsorship for the series of conversations highlighting diversity at Ohio University," said Elizabeth Graham, university ombudsman. "This is a testament of the power of one person with their own initiative, insight, organizational power and elbow grease."
There were six panels total, with many people throughout the university community participating. The panels discussed six topics: the African American Experience at Ohio University, Women in Leadership at Ohio University, Out in Academia: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Experience at Ohio University, International Voices at Ohio University, Living with Disability at Ohio University and Appalachian Roots at Ohio University.
"The series was well received by the university community - there was standing room only," Smith said. "It was effective in the way it was implemented and people went away with an understanding that they did not have prior to attending. I could not have scripted a more perfect model for our first award recipient."
The panels were sponsored by the Office of the Ombuds, the Office for Institutional Equity, the MLK (Martin Luther King) committee, the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and the Office for University Diversity. First lady Deborah McDavis helped launch the panels and Caitlin Murray, now a graduate student at Ohio University, helped organize all the logistics.
"The panels provided an opportunity for people to gather and hear first-hand what the experiences of different diverse groups on campus bring to Ohio University and our community," Ziff said. "They featured personal narratives as well as suggestions for making Ohio University a more inclusive and diverse place."
Recordings of all six panels are available in the Alden Library Video/DVD Collection as well as in the University Archives.
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