Event Celebrates Women Championing Diversity at the University
From left: Dr. George Fair, vice president of diversity and community engagement, with Women Leading in Diversity honorees Dr. Julia Chan, professor of chemistry; Dr. Christine Stanley, from Texas A&M University; Lavanya Desai, of the UT Dallas Student Diversity Advisory Council; Josephine Vitta, director of the International Student Services Office, who accepted the award for Cristen Casey; and Dr. Rashaunda Henderson, associate professor of engineering.
The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement honored four female faculty, staff and student leaders for their work to promote diversity and inclusion on campus at a recent ceremony.
Honorees at the Women Leading in Diversity breakfast ceremony, held in the McDermott Suite, were:
- Dr. Rashaunda Henderson, associate professor of engineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
- Dr. Julia Chan, professor of chemistry in the School of Natural Sciences & Mathematics.
- Cristen Casey, assistant vice president for international programs, who heads the UT Dallas International Center.
- Lavanya Desai, psychology senior in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences and chairperson of the Student Diversity Advisory Council.
Dr. Christine Stanley, vice president and associate provost for diversity and professor of higher education administration at Texas A&M University, spoke at the event and also was recognized for her contributions. Stanley spent two days on campus leading diversity workshops for the UT Dallas Center for Teaching and Learning.
“The women we’re honoring here today don’t spend much time in the spotlight,” Dr. George Fair, vice president of diversity and community engagement, told the audience. “But each of them inspire countless women and men on campus every day. We’re delighted to honor each of these exceptional leaders.”
“The women we’re honoring here today don’t spend much time in the spotlight. But each of them inspire countless women and men on campus every day. We’re delighted to honor each of these exceptional leaders.”
Henderson, who serves as chair of UT Dallas’ Committee for the Support of Diversity and Equity, spoke about the importance of introducing young people to new career possibilities. Henderson said she initially planned to become a math teacher until one of her high school teachers suggested a different path.
“Someone encouraged me to consider engineering and I did that,” Henderson said.
Diversity leads to better science, Chan told the audience after accepting her award.
“I espouse and care a lot about diversity. It’s not only the right thing to do, but published research shows that diversity in STEM produces more innovative results,” she said. “The research environment is certainly richer with a multitude of opinions and backgrounds.”
Desai told the audience that she was thankful for the opportunity to serve in her role on the diversity council.
“I love this school so much. It has given me so much and so I’m very honored to be able to give back to this community,” she said.
Casey was unable to attend the event. Josephine Vitta, director of the International Student Services Office, accepted the award on her behalf.
In her speech, Stanley emphasized the need for open dialogues and accountability to increase diversity on college campuses.
“It’s everyone’s responsibility,” Stanley said. “When we engage in dialogues with each other and truly engage in dialogues with each other, even if it’s not comfortable, that’s how we change the places and spaces we’re in.”
In 2015, the University was ranked among the top 25 most ethnically diverse undergraduate student populations in the country by U.S. News & World Report. The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement offers a variety of programs including workshops, lectures, scholarships to promote diversity on campus.
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].