To honor Black History Month, the Oglethorpe University chapter of Collegiate 100 presented a panel discussion on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as part of its general body meeting on Feb. 27.
Several new university leaders joined the panel: Chief of Staff Rebecca Sandidge, PhD, Vice President for Advancement Juan McGruder, PhD, and Dean of Students Kyle Williams, EdD.
The featured panelists shared how their own career paths led them to their current roles, while also addressing diversity, equity and inclusion challenges in higher education and beyond.
“College access and completion is a starting point in helping to lower the gap in economic and social mobility,” said Dr. McGruder. “Colleges and universities have an obligation to play a role in that.”
The speakers also emphasized the importance of celebrating and recognizing past experiences while addressing the systemic issues that continue to contribute to disparities in society.
“The Black experience is important to honor, but we also have to honor the indigenous experience, we have to honor the Latinx experience, because some of our experiences are so intertwined because of what’s happened through history that we don’t want to talk about that,” Williams said. “As we push to continue to celebrate that, then hopefully, we can start to undo some of the systemic oppression that plagues our country.”
Each panelist also shared their vision for Oglethorpe’s future, and how the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion could influence other colleges and universities.
Dr. Williams shared his goal to provide every Oglethorpe student with the opportunity to graduate and earn their degree, while challenging students on the call to hold leaders accountable in staying committed to initiatives supporting that effort. Dr. McGruder spoke on his responsibility to gain and provide resources to carry out strategic priorities that would impact every student on campus. Dr. Sandidge discussed the importance of diversity in the decision-making process and understanding one’s role in guiding leadership in making decisions.
“One of the benefits of having diverse voices at the table is that when decisions are getting made that those myriads of backgrounds are reflected in those decisions, and the things being put forth are being questioned and challenged from those backgrounds,” Dr. Sandidge said.
The panel closed with questions from students and a thank you from President Nick Ladany.
“I’m very humbled by these three outstanding leaders in our community and what they bring to Oglethorpe. You can see why all three of them were the top choices for these positions,” President Ladany said. “I’m learning a lot today and I’m going to continue to strive to learn more as I’m in this role.”