University President Randy Dunn recently named Sonya Baker, assistant dean of humanities and fine arts, as the new chair of his Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.
Baker is taking over for the prioritizing, implementing and evaluating step in the steps toward diversity. Former co-chairs Jody Cofer and S.G. Carthell, who led the development of the plan, will remain on the Commission as members.
The Commission on Diversity and Inclusion was formed by President Randy Dunn to enhance diversity at the University.
The Commission was developed when the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) made it mandatory for Kentucky’s eight public universities to have a diversity plan.
The CPE has a strategic direction it wants to take and asked the Council for Equal Opportunity to provide guidance over the policies, Kirby O’Donoghue, CPE council member, said in an interview with The News in September.
Baker said the Commission wants to compile the diversity goals needed to take action and implement them.
“I’m looking at all the action steps we have and breaking them down by areas,” Baker said. “Each area will probably have some idea of what they want to do first, but as we look at the plan as a whole I’m trying to break it down into smaller parts so that we can get those action steps prioritized.”
The University’s proposal met each of the CPE’s standards for the diversity plans and was approved by the Board of Regents Aug. 26.
“What we are very pleased with is the plan is one of the most, if not the most highly regarded, by the CPE,” Baker said. “It went through with flying colors which we felt great about. We have broken into separate work groups to help come up with this plan.”
The Commission must be practical as to what goals it can achieve in a short period of time and on a limited funds.
“We can have high budget goals, but realistically people have budgeted for this year,” Baker said. “We will look at doing things this year and in the near future that are less expensive.”
Baker said the Diversity Plan allows the Commission to target a larger population of diverse groups.
“We are able to look at people of all different ethnicities and look at different issues,” she said.
The Commission is made up of faculty and staff from all different areas of the University and a student representative who were invited by the president, Baker said.
“I think it’s a group of people that is really very committed to having the most diverse and inclusive campus climate that we can have and I think people ought to know that,” she said.
Baker said members of the committee are dedicated to making everyone feel valued by the University.
“People, who are really committed, really want the place to feel like home for everybody,” she said. “I think we are proud to be part of an advisory commission that the president appointed.”
The first of three commissions, Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, said the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion shows President Randy Dunn’s commitment to the principles of diversity.
“Creating a more diverse university is certainly going to benefit students, faculty and staff because it creates more of an educational environment and much more conducive to reflecting the real world,” Robertson said. “Taking this comprehensive approach to make sure our campus is diverse it is critical so that everyone feels a part of the campus.”