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The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Shannon Shelton Miller March 02, 2017

During a 90-minute public forum Feb. 22, Larry Burnley, the University’s inaugural vice president for diversity and inclusion, outlined his emerging vision and aspiration toward making campus a more welcoming place for all.

His most powerful statement, however, was summed up in just four words.

“Diversity makes us better,” he said.


Faculty, staff and students filled most of the seats in Sears Recital Hall to hear Burnley discuss the University’s strengths and challenges related to enhancing diversity and inclusion efforts on campus, and his plan during the next four years to advance UD’s strategic goals and objectives related to diversity and inclusion.

Shortly after his arrival in fall 2016, Burnley convened more than two dozen listening and learning focus group sessions to learn more about the existing campus climate related to diversity and inclusion, and to solicit suggestions and recommendations for improvement. Hundreds of faculty, staff and students attended those sessions during the fall, and Burnley presented key findings from those talks during the two recent forums.

Burnley said he also hoped to understand how UD’s Catholic, Marianist values intersected with core values of diversity and inclusion, and how the Marianist tradition of educating the whole person through community, working toward social justice, connecting learning to leadership and service; and collaborating for adaptation and change could influence those goals.

Burnley also stressed that UD’s diversity and inclusion effort should be grounded in equity — insuring that all have the tools needed to be successful — versus equality, which treats everyone in a similar fashion without acknowledging any disparities that place individuals and groups at an initial disadvantage.

On his future aspirations for the University, he said: “Driven by our Catholic and Marianist traditions, UD will be internationally renowned for its resolute commitment to social justice, high degree of cultural intelligence, intercultural competency, its awareness of different identities and their significance to higher education.”

At the end of the forum, Burnley outlined goals for the rest of the 2016-17 academic year and the 2017-18 academic year, which include:

-Holding “listening and learning’ session with community leaders and residents in West Dayton

-Hiring new staff in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

-Conducting training for staff in the Division of Enrollment Management on recruiting a diverse student body

-Forming a campuswide advisory committee on diversity and inclusion

-Hosting a diversity scholar-in-residence for a two-day visit to campus, which would include a public lecture.