Story by Ashley Traylor, Staff writer
Murray State held the Presidential Lecture, “We have a dream. Are we living it?” that featured speeches from three Murray State alumni.
MarTeze Hammonds, Walter Bumphus and Jerry Sue Thornton discussed diversity and inclusion in higher education.
Hammonds and Bumphus agreed society is living the dream, but Thornton said she believes there is work to be done.
MarTeze Hammonds, now the inaugural associate dean for diversity and inclusion at Arkansas Tech University, said diversity and inclusion begins with higher education institutions. He said these institutions have a responsibility to support inclusion, and universities are the best places to learn inclusiveness.
Hammonds said we must communicate and build relationships with others and judge people based on their character, not their “shell” or appearance. When the dream is lived, he said, we love each other and everyone must be accountable.
“Let’s not waste any time and live the dream of hope, peace, love and prosperity,” Hammonds said.
Walter Bumphus, who serves on Murray State’s Board of Regents, also said he believes we are living the dream.
“Yes ‘comma,’ but we still have more to do,” Bumphus said.
Bumphus said his parents did not graduate from high school and African Americans were not presidents of universities when he was growing up, so he did not have leaders he could look up to back then.
He said he never could have dreamt of the opportunities he has had, like attending Murray State, meeting former presidents of the United States and serving as president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges.
Through these opportunities, Bumphus said he learned the value of developing relationships. He said education allows people to fulfil their dreams, and there should be more educational opportunities for kids who feel their lives are predetermined.
With hard work, educational opportunities, accountability and expectations, more people can fulfill their dreams. Jerry Sue Thornton, CEO of DreamCatcher Educational Consulting Service, said we have work to do before fulfilling the dream. She said Murray State continues to embrace diversity and the university continues to strive for diversity and inclusion.
Thornton said we are not there yet, but inclusion is one step at a time. She said steps toward diversity are not like an elevator.
“There is no elevator to the top,” Thornton said. “It is one step at a time.”
Thornton grew up in Arlington, Kentucky, where she said she was not exposed to different cultures, because of the small population. However, when she came to Murray State, she was exposed to diverse groups of people.
To move the American dream forward, she said we need to create relationships, listen to others’ goals and dreams, broaden our own perspectives and be a leader.
“Diversity and inclusion are exactly how they sound,” Thornton said. “Acknowledging the presence and the right for all of us to be, exist and maximize our potential.”