Take 5 - President Michael F. Adams on diversity at UGA

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Michael F. Adams

Q: Why is diversity important for UGA?

A: One of the things we are committed to at the University of Georgia is preparing young people to be competitive in today’s global economy. We can’t do that if we are not modeling society’s diversity right here in our own university community. We are very intentional about building an environment where faculty and students from different ethnicities, regions, religious and political perspectives, for example, can come together in an academic setting to interact with and learn from each other. Much of that teaching and learning takes shape in the diversity of perspectives within a discipline now being taught. Today at UGA we teach some 25 different languages, including Farsi, Mandarin, Hebrew and the Romance Languages. Students can learn about different religions, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. They can study art and music from contemporary local artists or from the world’s great traditions. And all of those experiences and more can be found studying abroad in programs in more than 100 different countries around the globe. Students leave here with a broader view of themselves and the world in our increasingly diverse learning environment.

Q: What does UGA do to better integrate the student body once the students are here?

A: The most alluring aspect of this place is the multiplicity of opportunities available to students. We offer a variety of courses, student activities, cultural celebrations, entertainment, languages and other activities that enhance the student learning experience.  Within each of those offerings are dedicated faculty, staff and administrators who are passionate about supporting and mentoring the young people that matriculate here. We tell students early and often they can find a comfort zone here, but we also encourage them to also explore the diversity of activities that take them outside their comfort zone. The latter is where real learning sometimes takes place.

Q: Is UGA where you’d like it to be in terms of student diversity?

A: I am not sure that any entity in the state of Georgia is where it needs to be, but I desire to focus on the positive. I believe we have come as far as most. We increasingly reflect in almost a mirror image way the number of undergraduate students in Georgia who take and excel in a pre-collegiate curriculum. Clearly there is much more work to be done in this state in the areas of high school preparation, the promotion of an academic culture and fuller parental, teacher and community involvement in the development of successful minority students.

Atlanta civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell confers with Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes during the court case that would open the UGA campus to black students.

Q: What about faculty diversity?

A: In addition to the progress we’ve made in undergraduate student representation, we have also made dramatic strides in attracting and retaining faculty, administrators and graduate students from traditionally underrepresented populations. I do want the University of Georgia to better reflect to the best of our ability the makeup of the state and to help produce the next generation of leaders from African American, Hispanic, Asian and other communities as well as from the majority population.

Q: What is UGA doing to recruit more diverse student body?

A: It’s a team approach here. We’ve been successful because faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni have pitched in to reach out to potential students. We are expanding our reach to different high schools all across the state. Our development professionals are raising funds every day to support merit and need-based scholarships. That’s an area where we continue to seek the support of our alumni and friends.