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More than 65 UNC staff and faculty gathered to share thoughts on diversity during the inaugural Diversity THINKposium on August 13. The event was hosted by UNC Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and co-sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Center for Faculty Excellence. “Partnering with DMA on the THINKposium signals an important building of momentum and energy for our work together, ” said Patricia Parker, director of faculty diversity initiatives at the College of Arts and Sciences—one of the THINKposium’s co-sponsors. “With a new chancellor and provost at the helm at Carolina, there seems to be momentum building on campus to continue toward positive, forward thinking change. In keeping with this energy, the THINKposium provided an excellent opportunity for networking, learning, and exchange among diversity leaders from across the campus who are already working toward increasing diversity and inclusion at Carolina.”The themes for the day were “The importance of building diverse teams,” “Civility in the workplace,” and “Working with the different dimensions of diversity.” Provost James W. Dean Jr. welcomed participants by sharing the importance of diversity in organizations and Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer Taffye Benson Clayton framed the conversation with a presentation that laid out a diversity road map of Carolina and provided the context of UNC’s past diversity efforts, key data points, and definitions and dimensions of diversity.

Following the introductory session, Dr. Jodi Sandfort, associate professor at the University of Minnesota and Chair of the school’s Leadership & Management Area, led the morning World Café session—three rounds of participant discussions based on the questions 1) What are your motivations for being here? What is compelling to you about this vision? 2) What are the challenges that need to be addressed in moving these ideas forward? and 3) What are our best ideas about how to meet those challenges? Participants—who were asked to keep records of their discussions—were grouped and changed seats (and groups) between each round. At the end of the session, groups shared their discussions verbally and visually, lining the walls with notes and graphics from the group discussions.

During the lunch break, inspiring and motivating TED-style talks were given by two members of the Carolina community—Amy Burtaine, the coordinator of Interactive Theatre Carolina, and Sylvia Novinsky, assistant dean for Public Service Programs at UNC School of Law. Burtaine shared her work with the Interactive Theatre and the importance of building diverse teams. Novinsky spoke on her work with the UNC Law’s Pro Bono program and working with different dimensions of diversity.

Exploring Diversity at UNC

During the afternoon, participants engaged in additional World Café sessions where they addressed their personal curiosities of diversity at UNC and how they could contribute to promoting diversity at the university. The THINKposium ended with participants sharing “how to be courageous” in their personal work. Participants shared how they would be courageous and affixed them to a banner at the front of the room.

How are UNC faculty and Staff Being Courageous Toward Diversity?

  • Confronting injustice and challenging non-inclusive language
  • Challenging “that’s how we’ve always done things” with “but is that the most inclusive way”
  • Courageous about hosting conversations about diversity that matter in my department and throughout the College
  • Breaking down barriers and building up support for these difficult conversations
  • Building a network of people in my department to talk about and act for diversity

About Jodi Sandfort

Dr. Sandfort led the discussions and facilitated the entire day with enthusiasm and engaged participants in conversations that inspired the group to grapple with challenging the status quo and bring about growth for our campus community. You can see more about her work and “The Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter at

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