UNC Chief Diversity Officer Recognized as a Leader in Diversity in the Triangle

Associate Vice Chancellor and CDO Taffye Benson Clayton was one of 13 individuals and 10 organizations that were honored during the Triangle Business Journal (TBJ) Leaders in Diversity Awards luncheon and ceremony on Thursday, September 11.  The awards recognized those who demonstrated advocacy for underrepresented groups, had a commitment to inclusion, and infused diversity within their business practices, including multicultural marketing methods. This was the second annual Leaders in Diversity Awards program and took place at the Cotton Room in Durham.

Taffye Benson Clayton and fellow award winner Dr. Joanne Woodard, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity at NC State

Taffye Benson Clayton and fellow award winner Dr. Joanne Woodard, Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity at NC State

Together with PNC, TBJ seeks to recognize the accomplishments of Triangle businesses, individuals and non-profits with the awards as they strive to reflect the rich tapestry of our community.. At the ceremony, TBJ publisher Bryan Hamilton said that, “our community would benefit from taking note of the progress being made in diversity and…we could all learn from some of the extraordinary work being done through these local champions.”

Clayton, who came to UNC-CH in 2012, is a UNC alumna and serves as the associate vice chancellor for UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and chief diversity officer in the division of Workforce Strategy, Equity & Engagement. In this role, she has the responsibility of advising senior leadership in the University and working with administrators, faculty, staff and students across campus to strengthen Carolina’s long-standing commitment to a diverse, inclusive campus community. Prior to arriving to Carolina, Clayton had served as East Carolina University’s associate provost for equity, diversity and community relations and chief diversity officer.

“I accepted this award,” said Clayton, “not just for myself, but for everyone who works hard to make The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a more diverse and inclusive campus. My team at UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, the campus units and community partners we work with contribute countless hours toward this effort.” Clayton cites the work of affinity centers, students, diversity groups in schools and units, and DMA’s advisory partners as having helped make UNC worthy of being recognized.

Jim Hansen, regional president of PNC, which sponsored the event, stressed that companies are more successful when they fully engage all employees. “Valuing diversity and inclusion helps to create stronger organizations, making us better employers and more responsive corporate citizens,” he said.

Clayton, a native of Fayetteville, NC, earned her bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill; master’s degree from American University; and doctorate in education from East Carolina University. She also  completed the Management Development Degree from the Harvard Institute for Higher Education.

Award-Winning Author Junot Díaz to Deliver HHM Keynote

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Junot Díaz

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner Junot Díaz

Junot Díaz, who won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for his acclaimed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao will be the keynote speaker for UNC’s Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) celebrations. Díaz, who was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, was also the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award. A graduate of Rutgers College, Díaz is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The lecture will take place at Memorial Hall on October 4 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for the event are $3 with a valid OneCard and $8 for the general public, available through the Memorial Hall Box Office. The event will include a book reading, a Q&A session, and commentary. There will be a book signing at the Campus Y after the event.

This keynote event is hosted by the Carolina Union Activities Board in partnership with the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative, the Campus Y, and the Program in Latina/o Studies.

A full calendar of HHM events can be found on the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative website at http://clc.unc.edu/bulletins/hhm-2014/.

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September Diversity in Higher Education Seminar: Female Faculty in the Sciences

In partnership with the Carolina Women’s CenterDiversity and Multicultural Affairs features four prominent female scientists at UNC in a panel and a facilitated WIS_logosdiscussion on Creating an Inclusive Climate for Female Faculty in the Sciences. In the past decade, the percentages of women attaining degrees in engineering and computer sciences have remained stagnant yet these fields have the highest demands in the workforce. This has critical implications for the future of science, technology, engineering, and math—also known as the STEM fields.

With rising numbers of attrition of women in multiple STEM arenas, the need to create policies and practices that promote inclusion, leadership, and opportunities for women in STEM will be the issue under discussion. The panel will discuss promising practices and also challenges that female faculty face in higher education with regard to increasing female enrollment, degree attainment, and faculty recruitment in the sciences.

Chancellor Folt will make opening remarks for the event. Panelists will include Clara Lee, MD, MPP (Associate Professor of Surgery, Director of Research – Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, UNC Department of Surgery); Anna Maria Siega-Riz, PhD (professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; Valerie Ashby, PhD, (professor and department chair, Chemistry) and Pamela Johnson Rowsey, PhD, RN (associate professor and coordinator of student diversity and recruitment, School of Nursing).

Professor Silvia Tomášková will moderate the session. Dr. Tomášková has extensive experiences in addressing climate issues for women scientists in various science departments through the Women in Science group at UNC, and works to bring distinguished women scientists to campus in an annual public lecture series. Dr. Tomášková has a joint appointment in the Anthropology Department and in Women’s and Gender Studies, and teaches courses in both units.

The seminar will take place in the Toy Lounge in Dey Hall, Tuesday, September 23, 2014 from 3:30-5:00 pm. Registration is open to all and will be of special interest to both new and emerging faculty and graduate students. Please note: registration is required to attend and refreshments will be served during the event.

Diversity and Multicultural Affairs hosts the Annual Diversity in Higher Education Series that focuses on diversity across three areas: Education, Access, and Research. To learn more about future diversity education seminars, please visit diversity.unc.edu/seminars.

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Achieving Carolina Excellence

On Friday, August 15, over 200 incoming first-year and transfer students and their families gathered in the Student Union Great Hall. It was just a couple of hours since they had stepped on campus knowing that, this time, they weren’t going back home when their families left. For some of them it would be their first experience spending the night anywhere but their family home.

ACE students participate in 2014 service project

ACE students participate in 2014 service project

Some of these new Carolina students moved into their residence halls that morning and all of them began their transition to college during the Achieving Carolina Excellence (ACE) welcoming session. Put over 400 new students and family members in this setting and you’ve got a lot of excitement and a few nerves. Add about 40 members of the Minority Student Recruitment Committee (MSRC) cheering the new students on and performing for them and the atmosphere is electric. ACE is a program designed by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) to assist first year and transfer students from underrepresented populations with their transition to Carolina.

Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton welcomed the participants and urged students to learn from the incredibly diverse world that is now just a short walk from their residence hall. “You have opportunities to go beyond your comfort zone,” she said. “And I urge you to take advantage of them. Between what’s within you and what we have within the walls of this campus—you have everything you need to be successful.”

The welcome session also included greetings from the admissions office, Vice Chancellor Winston Crisp, MSRC On-Campus Coordinator Angel Washington, and from the presidents of the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC), the Asian Student Association (ASA), the Black Student Movement (BSM), and the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA).

Following the welcome and faculty/staff reception the program included concurrent sessions for family members, a session for male students hosted by Carolina Men Advocating for Learning, Empowerment, and Success (Carolina M.A.L.E.S.), a session for the women hosted by Unique Heels, and a session addressing the needs of students of all gender identities and expressions hosted by the UNC LGBTQ Center. For incoming student Estefane Santiago-Lopez the Unique Heels session was a favorite. She thought the presenters were “nice, funny and honest. They gave great advice and said many important things.”

At 4:30 in the afternoon student participants said good bye to their families and met with their ACE counselors for their first dinners on campus.  For first-year student and CMSP Scholar Phil Locklear, the evening-ending culture show in the Great Hall was the highlight of the day. Participants were treated to performances by Opeyo!, EROT, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Kamikaze Dance Group, Que Rico, and Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.

On Saturday morning, Dean Harold Woodard hosted an academic success discussion and panel. Students then participated in a service project in the Pit hosted by TABLE NC, a local nonprofit that provides healthy, emergency food aid to hungry children in Chapel Hill and Carrboro followed by the ACE Expo where they were introduced to more than 40 clubs, organizations and resources. “All of the first year students were eager to participate in the service project and expo,” said Ada Wilson Suitt, Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at DMA “and we had one of the greatest turnouts at the academic session that we have seen in years.”

Other activities let students choose from welcoming sessions hosted by BSM, ASA, CIC, CHispA, and Tar Heel Transfers and then participants ended the day with a Game Night in Upendo Lounge.

“The energy surrounding the weekend was overwhelming,” Wilson Suitt added “Students were excited to be part of a program that celebrated and embraced their cultural identity.”

ACE participants will have a chance to catch up with each other and their MSRC counselors on September 1 at the ACE cookout. For more information about other diversity events, visit diversity.unc.edu.

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New grant helps foster diversity at UNC School of Medicine

The National Institutes of Health awarded UNC School of Medicine a third round of funding for its IMSD Program – The Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity. The IMSD program attracts underrepresented students in the biomedical sciences and gives UNC the means to recruit more students from traditionally underrepresented populations and support their training as graduate students through professional development.

Carolina Latina/o Collaborative Open House

Chancellor Folt visits with students at CLC open house

Chancellor Folt visits with students at CLC open house

Staff and students at UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs had been planning for weeks to welcome returning students, faculty, and staff to the second annual Carolina Latina/o Collaborative (CLC) Open House on August 18. Food had been ordered, poster presentations had been assembled, and paintings were on the gallery walls.

A slow stream of guests started arriving around 11:00 and quickly grew to fill the hallway gallery space, seminar rooms, offices, and study lounge. Visiting students ranged from those who had been Tar Heels for just a few hours to seniors eager to share their experiences and to re-connect with friends they hadn’t seen since the end of the spring semester.

First-year students were particularly interested in the poster presentations offered by several of the Latina/o student organizations and crowded around the tables to sign up for interest meetings. Students who are participating in the Latina/o Peer Mentoring Program—an initiative that matches all incoming first-year Latina/o students with current undergraduate students—had their first chance to meet and connect with their peer match at the event.

“This was our largest turnout yet,” said Josmell Perez, assistant director for multicultural affairs with UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and the CLC. “The connections that students made with other students and with faculty and staff will help them have a successful career at Carolina.”

“The highlight of the event,” said Perez, “was when Chancellor Folt stopped in to surprise the students. “There were a lot of selfies taken. They’ve been talking about it and posting in social media ever since.”

“I was definitely impressed to see Chancellor Folt there,” said junior Cecilia Polanco, president of the Carolina Hispanic Association (CHispA). “There’d been talk about her maybe coming, but she’s so busy. I appreciate her taking the time to come see us and speak to us; it really made me feel like she cares.”

Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs welcomed the visitors and commended the CLC staff and students on creating a space that was both inclusive and differentiated. “This type of event,” she said, “affords you a chance to connect authentically with your peers, faculty, staff and administrators.”

“It is really important to ensure that all students, and particularly minority and underrepresented students who come to Carolina, are able to connect with community,” says Dr. Clayton. “So much of this kind of programming is critical for student success.”

More information about the CLC can be found on their website, clc.unc.edu. To learn more about Diversity and Multicultural Affairs visit diversity.unc.edu.

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Ecuadoran Exchange Delegation Visits UNC

EcuadorVisitRepresentatives from the government of Ecuador’s higher education system, Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación, met with staff from Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (DMA) on June 30 as part of a professional exchange program with the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. The Ecuadoran exchange delegation was visiting institutions of higher education to better understand regulatory and management systems in the United States. A new higher education law, passed in 2010, outlines specific provisions in the Ecuadoran higher education system and the delegation was seeking input on regulation, accreditation, diversity, administration, and university management.

Participants in the delegation represented the Secretariat of Higher Education, the Ministry of Knowledge and Human Talent, and the Council of Evaluation, Accreditation, and Quality Assurance of Ecuador.

“Having the opportunity to interact with and engage the Ecuadorian delegation provided a rich discussion for sharing our practice and learning more about other forms of higher education,” said Dr. Marco Barker, DMA senior director for education, operations and initiatives. “It was informative and intriguing to hear how South American higher education policy makers wrestled with the same issues and concerns related to diversity, equity, access, and success among their varying demographics.”

During the conversation, members of the delegation expressed a strong interest in student recruitment, preparation, and success programs and UNC’s relationship with K-12 education—an indicator of their desire to make higher education in Ecuador and South America more attainable for students who may be underserved or from under-resourced communities.

Josmell Pérez, DMA’s assistant director for multicultural programs and the Carolina Latina/o Collaborative, also spoke with the delegation. “They were interested in all aspects of our higher education system,” he said “from policy and curriculum to student retention and graduation.” He noted that they were impressed by how intentional DMA programs were in providing students with a sense of community and are supported by people who have a vested interest in their success.

This visit marked the third delegation of international visitors for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Previously, DMA has met with two different groups of Interfaith leaders from Germany who were interested in diversity and social justice education.

The Ecuador visit was coordinated by UNC Global’s international affairs liaison Melissa McMurray.

About Diversity and Multicultural Affairs

Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is a unit in the Division of Workforce Strategy, Equity, and Engagement and serves as the diversity arm of the University. DMA is led by Associate Vice Chancellor & Chief Diversity Officer Taffye Benson Clayton and has the responsibility of providing university-wide leadership in building and sustaining an inclusive campus community that values and respects all members of the university community and beyond.

For more information about diversity at Carolina, please visit diversity.unc.edu or email diversity@unc.edu.

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First Person: UNC Junior Volunteers at a Detention Center in San Antonio


Global Studies major Cecilia Polanco reports on her visit to the detention center where young immigrants fleeing their war-torn villages in Central America are being held in San Antonio.

This summer I’ve been blessed to have done some travelling and independent research around the U.S. Last week I was in San Antonio, Texas, and since I’d been following news and articles about the children coming from Central America and being held in detention centers, I decided I was going to find a way to help.

Through some connections, I contacted someone who organized volunteers. I wanted to come in and help in some way. In my mind, I was prepared to do whatever kind of work was needed. I pictured cleaning, washing, or even cooking as possibilities. But what I imagined in my mind, much of which was and is influenced by what I read and see in the media, differed from the actual situation, which is the case many times.

I arrived at the detention center Friday morning, on my last day in San Antonio. The night before, my mind kept me awake with thoughts and images of over crowded warehouses, dirty and crying children, and me: not fully knowing what was going on and totally in over my head. But what I came to find was different.

I had to leave my phone in the car, so I have no pictures of myself, or the children I interacted with. Safety is the number one priority of the staff at this center, and I respected any request made. I signed in, put on my volunteer badge, and was escorted to an area with a small soccer field, and picnic tables under a shelter, like you’d see at a lake-side retreat.

I sat down at one of the tables and laid out all my supplies. My first client was a little girl with four front teeth missing and the cutest smile. So I asked her, “Que quieres que te pinte?” / “What do you want me to paint for you?”

Face painting is not one of my best skills. Actually, I’d say I’m pretty bad at it. But I was prepared to paint my best flowers and butterflies for these girls. They were very special to me. I spoke in Spanish the entire time. It was funny: before I arrived, one of the staff said, “These girls speak Spanish, but they speak a different Spanish. They use weird words that we don’t usually use. Ones from Central American countries like Honduras and El Salvador.” I thought about the way I speak Spanish, being that I’m from El Salvador, and of some of my experiences volunteering in Nicaragua in the past. I wasn’t worried.

The little girls came to my chair, and for a few minutes, my attention was all theirs. I used my brushes and colors, and my favorite black eye liner to make them beautiful. I wasn’t impressed with anything I painted, but when I showed them the result in my compact mirror they would beam at themselves. The giggles and missing teeth affirmed that I’d done a good job.

I didn’t say much that day. I was focused, yet distracted when I looked up from the faces and remembered where I was. I made sure to ask every little girl her name, her age, and where she was from. The youngest was 5. I heard El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala; places that are not strange to me. The oldest girls I met were in their teens. One girl was 11, and I thought of my niece, Lesly. I know that she’s safe, at home with my sister, probably watching Netflix or taking selfies. I love her, and I can’t imagine having to tell her to leave, that she has to go because it’s not safe here, and that she has to do it by herself.

There was a lot to take in that day, but I came closest to tears when listening to the staff talk about a recent arrival, one of the smallest girls there, that hadn’t been sleeping well. She’d only gotten about two hours of sleep the night before, between suddenly waking up and calling out for her grandmother, and nodding off on the couch whimpering. They hadn’t been able to put her in contact with her mother or grandmother, both of whom I’m sure would have soothed her worries if they could just talk to each other. The struggle to protect the bond between people and the love between families is what ends up in separated families and deaths on the border. Sacrifices are made to keep people safe and alive.

Some of the older girls asked for “tattoos” on their forearms. So I drew my best eyeliner hearts and filled them in with red lipstick. They asked for names of their loved ones inside the hearts and along the stems of roses. My heart beat harder in my chest as I thought about the names the girls requested. Mothers, Fathers, sisters and brothers, sometimes even a young love left behind. I know that love and the memories of their loved ones are what keep them going.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on at the border. I don’t fully understand the politics behind it. But I do know that if someone shows up at my door, especially a child, they will be welcomed, fed, bathed, clothed, and taken care of. The conditions of the center where I was were great, but I know that’s the case in towns closer to the border.

Volunteering is the least I could do. I spread the word on social media, and advocate for a more understanding world and a more just political system. There’s plenty more to be done.

Cecilia Polanco

July, 2014