Message from the Interim Chief Diversity Officer
Dear App State Community,
Earlier this month, we celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day. Though inclement weather necessitated the canceling of our planned programming, I am excited to share that the lecture by Bakari Sellers has been rescheduled for Tuesday, March 1 and the day of service has been rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 26.
Though many of us can’t imagine a year without MLK Day — which is designed to be a day of service — it took nearly 15 years for it to become a federal holiday, and it wasn’t until 2000 that all states recognized the holiday at the state level. Regarding the passage of the King Holiday and Service Act, Sen. Harris Wofford said, “The King holiday should be a day on, not a day off; a day of action, not apathy; a day of responding to community needs, not a day of rest. Martin would want the holiday honoring his birthday to be a day of reflection not recreation, service not shopping, a day not only of words but of deeds.”
Dr. King believed everyone has a place in civil rights work no matter their color, class, creed or career. His legacy lives on through thousands of individuals, including the numerous Mountaineers who lead diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and serve our campus community throughout the year. Under Chancellor Sheri Everts’ leadership, these individuals have helped us achieve many milestones — including the creation of student support initiatives, mentoring programs, affinity groups, an accountability team and so much more.
On Jan. 10, we celebrated campus and community champions of inclusive excellence at the Chancellor’s Awards for Inclusive Excellence Luncheon, a recognition event established by Chancellor Sheri Everts in 2020. Since we were not able to present awards in 2021, we added award categories this year. Motivational speaker, entrepreneur, advocate and artist Monique Johnson — who stands only 2 feet tall and uses a motorized wheelchair — gave the keynote address, and presented a piece of original art to Chancellor Everts she created especially for App State. Born with diastrophic dysplasia dwarfism and scoliosis, doctors predicted she would not live past the age of 6. Now 36, a successful entrepreneur with a business degree and a law degree, she uses the power of her example to inspire others to, as she said, overcome the impossible and never let anything stifle their greatness. Monique also recorded a SoundAffect podcast with Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer Megan Hayes.
On Feb. 14 and 15, Dr. Kevin McDonald, Rachel Spraker and Sly Mata from the University of Virginia will visit our campus to facilitate a two-day, diversity, equity and inclusion leader-in-residence program. Their visit is part of an initiative to bring tailored workshops to App State to enhance our diversity, equity and inclusion knowledge across campus. The program will feature sessions targeted to particular groups on campus, including affinity groups, department chairs, faculty groups, staff from the division of Student Affairs and members of the Chancellor’s Cabinet. We will also host an open session for all App State staff on Feb. 14.
A new semester often means new opportunities to engage across campus. For a refresher on what is happening in the diversity, equity and inclusion space across campus, or to connect with different identity-centered groups, please review my message from August.
Jamie Parson, J.D.