Office of diversity changes name to be more inclusive

Quiche Matchen

The Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, formally known as the Office of Diversity Programs, changed their name this semester to include more of the campus community.

In 1986, the office was called Minority Student Support Services, which promoted campus engagement. The name then changed to the Office of Diversity Programs in 2001.

Richard Miller, vice provost and chief diversity officer, said the reason for the name change was to move away from just being known for the creation of diversity programs.

“We wanted to expand the focus of the office to include the word inclusion,” he said. “Because we wanted the office to engage more of the diverse populations of the campus.”

Miller said they wanted to include Hispanic, Asian American, white, LGBT, Native American communities and more.

“We wanted the office to focus not only on programming, but on events that connect the campus with its various diverse constituencies,” he said.

Miller said the office is beginning to become more inclusive in it’s involvement.

“It was time because our campus is becoming more diverse,” he said.

Miller said looking at the number of undergraduate and graduate students, white students at WKU in the last five years have been declining, while the number of minority students is increasing. He said this is a reflection of changing demographics in Kentucky and in higher education.

“Naturally, those demographic changes are going to have an impact on enrollments at colleges and universities,” Miller said.

Andrea Garr-Barnes, director of the office of institutional diversity and inclusion, said they are focusing on diversity, inclusion and underrepresented groups that are pursuing an academic degree or working on campus.

“The goal of all of our programs, events, and speakers is to increase recruitment of the diverse student, faculty and staff population,” she said.

Garr-Barnes said now there are more opportunities for people to have input in these events, which makes it more inclusive and collaborative. She said they will be launching programs that will also be for faculty and staff.

“Instead of having this office being charged with promoting cultural celebrations, we now have a cultural celebrations advisory committee,” she said. “Which has approximately 10 to 12 people on the committee, and the people are from various parts of the campus community.”

She said the office is organic and is constantly changing.

“The name change is a shared responsibility for recruitment, success and degree completion for every member of the WKU campus community,” she said.