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School of Social Work receives UNC diversity award

UNC’s School of Social Work has received the University’s 2009 distinguished “Diversity Award” for efforts to enhance diversity on the Carolina campus.
The award, given by the UNC Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Student Government and the Multicultural Council, was recently created as a way to honor UNC faculty, staff, students, student organizations, schools or departments, and community members or alumni for contributions in “creating an inclusive and diverse” campus community. Six other award recipients were honored during an inaugural reception at Graham Memorial’s Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence on April 29.

School of Social Work faculty member Travis Albritton holds the award plaque. More photos

Melva “Cookie” Newsom, UNC’s director of Diversity Education and Research, recognized the School of Social Work’s wide range of contributions, including efforts to increase the diversity of its student body, for hosting an annual Harambee multicultural event that celebrates ethnic, racial and cultural diversity and for raising racial awareness through the screening of a documentary film about the 1969 student-led revolt at N.C. A&T, a protest that further shaped the state’s Civil Rights Movement. 
The School’s Diversity Committee was also recognized for developing a resource guide that ensures that diversity discussions in the classroom are constructive, productive and free from personal attacks.
Diversity Committee members Travis Albritton and Natasha Bowen accepted the award on behalf of the School. Albritton said the award is a “testament to the hard work and commitment of faculty and staff to promote issues of diversity.” 
“We are committed to being campus leaders when addressing diversity,” said Albritton, the committee’s chairman. “Our code of ethics mandates that we take seriously the unique differences that exist across individuals, communities and cultures. Moreover, good social work practice is intentional about celebrating and valuing the varied experiences that make each of us who we are.”
Dean Jack Richman also praised the School’s recognition.”At the School of Social Work, the faculty, staff and students continually work toward creating an environment that celebrates diversity,” Richman said. “This ‘celebration’ actually reflects a complex developing process that involves a range of activities in the classroom and curriculum, in the School’s social and community activities and in our attitudes and actions.”
UNC officials agreed that the creation of a diversity award was long overdue and should send the message that inclusivity is a campus priority.
“We wanted to recognize important people who we think are reflective of who we are as the University of the people,” said Terri Houston, director of UNC Recruitment and Multicultural Programs.
Others receiving the award were Rob Stephens, an undergraduate student who helped form the student group, United with the Northside Community NOW; Hillel, a student organization; Omid Safi, a religious studies professor; Randy Delgado, a graduate student and president of the campus Minority Business Students Alliance; Cathy Knight, a supervisor with UNC Housekeeping; and Margaret Barrett, former executive director of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.
Although the ceremony allowed the University the chance to publicly praise its “diversity champions,” much more work is needed to ensure that UNC values and respects every Tar Heel member, said Archie Ervin, associate provost for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
“We are a great community that can be better,” he said. “We don’t want a community that impedes anyone. That is not the Carolina way.”
By Susan White