Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity

You Made a Difference

You Made a Difference in 2014

As we begin a new calendar year, we do so in a spirit of gratitude to all who have supported the work of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Thank you for all you do to make the campus more accessible, welcoming, and inclusive for all.

All the best,
Rickey Hall
Vice Chancellor for Diversity

Be the difference that makes a difference

Include your event on the Black History Month Calendar

On behalf of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, the Office of Multicultural Student Life and the Commission for Blacks we want to promote your Black History Month event.

If you are hosting an event during February 2015 that aligns with the remembrance of people and events in the African diaspora, or honors the accomplishments of African Americans, please submit your event details to be included on the Black History Month events calendar. Items will be included on the calendar based on space and relevance.

The event calendar will be distributed electronically throughout UT and the Knoxville community.

Submissions are due to by January 20, 2015.

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  • Please submit all events to the campus events calendar at
  • Cost, parking, rain date, etc.

Open Forum: Ferguson Report Back

Open Forum: Ferguson Report Back

Africana Studies, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Commission for Blacks, the Multicultural Mentoring Program, and the Vice Chancellor for Diversity invite you to hear a report back from our UT students who went to Ferguson, Missouri, to protest after the August 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown. Then, we encourage you to join the discussion moderated by Joshua Inwood, Associate Professor of Geography and Africana Studies, and Anton Reece, Director of the Student Success Center.

November 19, 2014
6:30 to 8 p.m.
27 Alumni Memorial Building

If you have any questions or if you need more information, please contact

View this event on Facebook.


Tam’ra-Kay Francis Wins NARST Award as a Promising Young Scholar

Tam'Ra-Kay FrancisThe NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) is committed to creating the next generation of scientists and science teachers. Each year, their Equity and Ethics Committee offers the Jhumki Basu Scholars award to support and nurture promising young scholars from underrepresented groups. The award helps the scholar craft questions, strengthen his/her theoretical framework, and improve his/her research skills.

We are proud to announce that Tam’ra-Kay Francis, a PhD student in the Science Education Doctoral Program and a Graduate Research Assistant for the Educational Advancement Program, is a 2014 recipient of the Jhumki Basu Scholars award.

After describing her research interests, a professor told Tam’ra-Kay that she was “beyond category,” and it is comments like that that reaffirm her purpose. She wants to break out of categories, and she wants to help future students do the same.  She said, “There are so many equity issues to address in science education and just knowing that our national organization is committed to social justice research is refreshing. By networking with educators and students who share similar passions and goals, hopefully, I can contribute to the field of developing diversity-centered science curriculum that includes other perspectives and voices.”

Working with the Educational Advancement Program has further reaffirmed Tam’ra-Kay’s goal of teaching science while including social justice issues. She states, “I have witnessed first hand the impact these programs have on these groups of students no matter what age, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. Working with the Educational Advancement Program has been not only rewarding but life changing. I get to apply my identity research to not just the STEM majors, but to all students.”

In April 2015, Ms. Francis will present her research at the NARST Annual International Conference in Chicago. Her presentation is titled “Redefining Identity: An Examination of the Attributes and Characteristics of First-Generation, Low-Income and Underrepresented Undergraduate Students in Predicting their STEM Graduate Degrees Aspirations.”

The university is proud of Tam’ra-Kay’s contributions to diversity in STEM education. She is changing the world one science student at a time. She said, “I know I can’t change the entire world, but if we can build bridges of hope for those who have never even dreamed, that would be enough for me.”

Unfinished Business: Civil Rights Act of 1964, Then, Now and Going Forward

Joshalyn Hundley by Joshalyn Hundley, City of Knoxville

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88–352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation in the United States[5] that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.[6] It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (known as “public accommodations”).

1963 was a pivotal year in Knoxville’s history, culminating with Look Magazine’s designation of Knoxville as an All-American City in April of that year. During that same year, African-Americans attempted to purchase, and were refused, tickets to attend a screening of the now-classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Tennessee Theatre.

Consider this! Imagine being scorned or jailed for sitting beside someone of a different race; ostracized for being open minded; beaten or jailed because you exercise recently passed legislation that your local government refused to implement. Imagine watching a friend being attached to a car with a rope and dragged through the streets, while the passengers and drivers laughed… and when you report it to the Police no one was held accountable. What if your livelihood was threatened because you desired to exercise your right to vote?  Think about a time when Civil Rights were granted to some but not to all. This may not have been the woes of our generation, but it was the reality of many.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would finally correct unjust situations in Knoxville. Area schools, restaurants, churches, and Theaters were now open to everyone. By 1971, African Americans were running for political office in Knoxville. Indeed, social change had arrived, but it was a long, hard journey to get there.

Whether small or large, we should always be reminded of the price others paid for us to have what we have today. That is why the City of Knoxville jumped at the opportunity to emphasize the importance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These celebrations were great opportunities for people to learn the first-hand story behind the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Fifty years on, the achievements of that era are easy to take for granted. It is important to remember how hard the fight was. The signing of this Act facilitated a paradigm shift for social change which shook the country, yet, fifty years later we still have a lot to accomplish.

These celebrations cast a light on the University of Tennessee and how it has grown exponentially in size and character. UT campus was the scene of several protests and these celebrations emphasized the measures UT has taken to ensure all are welcome and treated fairly.

The success of this year’s celebrations is due in large part to the spirit of collaboration among several organizations. The City of Knoxville and UT could serve as a catalyst to steer the collaboration through the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Act locally. I think it is safe to say that we all feel there is still much to be done to garner civil rights for all. With this in mind, we can keep the struggle at the forefront, by continuing the dialogue that has been going on throughout this year and brainstorming ways in which we can partner on future projects. Lastly, I believe we can serve as educators for others by engaging the region, we expand the conversation on strategies to accomplish the “Unfinished Business,” hopefully, creating a platform for communication that does not exclude, negate or nullify the thoughts or feelings or experiential reality for all.


College of Communication and Information Received Inaugural Diversity Award

College of Communications & Information's Alice Wirth with Mayor RogeroIn 2007, Alice Bowling Wirth, a lecturer in the College of Communication and Information’s (CCI) School of Communication Studies, created CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS). Seven years later CCI received the inaugural Dr. Marva L. Rudolph Diversity and Interculturalism Unit Excellence Award at the 2014 Chancellor’s Honors Banquet. Alice’s leadership of CCI’s Diversity and Inclusion Program coupled with contributions from other CCI faculty, staff and students allowed CCI to be recognized for “exceptional work encouraging and advancing diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee.”

Key elements of CCI’s diversity efforts include: a thriving DSLS Program including the CCI Experience Diversity Banquet (2009-present), field trips to Washington, DC and Chicago (2010-present), a mentoring program, and a Mock Interview/Resume Critique/Dress for Success Night (2010-present); CCI’s Diversity and Inclusion Week (2010-present), a 4-day annual event allowing students, faculty members and community members the opportunity to dialogue about all kinds of diversity and inclusion issues; presenting the CCI Diversity Award (2009-present) to recognize outstanding individual contributions to diversity and inclusion both locally and nationally (see; active participation in UTK’s Future Faculty Program (2011-present); conducting a CCI Climate Survey (2009-present) every other year to determine student attitudes and understanding of diversity and inclusion; establishing a college-wide diversity committee; conducting a content analysis of class syllabi to examine coverage of the issues and assignments involving diversity; and inclusion of CCI’s diversity statement on course syllabi.

“CCI’s Diversity and Inclusion Program has made consistently impactful contributions to advance diversity and inclusion at UT over the past seven years,” said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “As a result of CCI’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, the college has implemented a number of sustainable diversity and inclusion initiatives that are linked to its mission and which help educate, enlighten and inspire CCI and UT Knoxville students, faculty and staff.”

With 1,250 in person attendees and hundreds of others watching via streaming video, CCI’s Diversity and Inclusion Week underscores its ongoing commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee (see

“Our goal is to provide an open and accepting community for all CCI and UT Knoxville students, faculty and staff,” said Alice Wirth. “Creating a climate that affirms and endorses the importance of providing everyone ‘with a seat at the table’ is critical as UT Knoxville strives for excellence on its journey to the Top 25.”

Thank you, Karla McKanders


Karla McKandersby Lili’a Neville, Chair, Commission for Blacks

I want to publicly thank Karla McKanders for serving as co-chair for the Commission for Blacks during the 2013-2014 year. During her time as co-chair, Karla brought dynamic and inspirational leadership to the organization and was a model diversity and inclusion advocate for the Commission, university, and our community.

As co-chair, Karla’s passion to retain African American professionals in Knoxville initiated the Commission’s commitment to providing strategic programming to positively impact this goal. The commission held two panels to initiate dialogue about the challenges related to retaining talented and diverse professionals in Knoxville.

McKanders also initiated the Commission’s action plan to highlight and grow awareness of the scholarship of African American faculty at UT. The Commission now nominates two African American faculty members as Quest Scholars each academic year. Quest Scholars are highlighted on the Quest Research Magazine website, the daily Tennessee Today e-newsletter, the home page, and now on the Commission’s website at

Karla led a collaboration with the College of Law’s Community Committee to host a panel on the evolution of activism in celebration of the 2014 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The panel focused on the changing face of activism since the Civil Rights Movements and the ways the current generation participates in civil rights activism.

In addition to her service to advancing diversity and inclusion at UT, Karla carries a substantial pro bono and clinic caseload. During her six years as a faculty member, Karla McKanders and her students have represented clients statewide in immigration and asylum cases with a great deal of success. In 2011 and 2012, McKanders was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Mohamed V-Souissi in Rabat, Morocco. Since her time in Morocco, she has been collaborating with law professors and nonprofit organizations in the Middle East and North Africa addressing clinical legal education and disparities in access to lawyers for immigrant and refugee populations.

Thank you, Karla. I will speak on behalf of the university, when I express my thanks for your work on the commission and for helping underrepresented persons through your scholarship, your legal aid, and your unwavering support of and passion for diversity.

Spotlight on the Commission for Blacks

Commission for Blacks Retention EventThe Commission for Blacks (CFB) is appointed by the Chancellor to advise on planning, implementation, and evaluation of University programs, policies, and services as they relate to African American students, faculty, and staff.

Retention of African American professionals is a central theme to commission efforts. In alignment with this effort, the Commission held two panel discussions to dialogue about the challenges associated with the retention of diverse young professionals in Knoxville during the 2013-2014 year.

The most rewarding aspect of commission work is knowing that you are making an impact on the African American community at the university and in Knoxville. The impact of the CFB retention events is being widely felt by our community. Doug Banister, pastor with All Souls Church, is authoring a series called “Hope for Our City” in the Knoxville News Sentinel. His series discusses  the retention of African Americans in Knoxville and references the work of the commission.

This past August, the Knoxville Area Urban League Young Professionals group partnered with the Commission for their 4th annual Cork Savvy Wine Tasting and Silent Auction to benefit the Dr. Walter Hardy Scholarship. The Young Professionals group desired to highlight the Commission’s effort to retain diverse young professionals in Knoxville. This partnership created productive networking between University of Tennessee students and local businesses.

There is still much work to do regarding retention of African American professionals. This year we will hold a half-day workshop to brainstorm realistic and strategic tactics to address barriers to retention. The CFB intends to synthesize the tactics and plans formulated during this workshop into a formalized strategic plan that can guide our work to address retention issues in the years to come. You can register for the workshop at and learn more about the event at

As we look forward to future successes, we honor the leaders who helped shape the commission. We are partnering with the Office of Multicultural Student Life to host the African American Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on October 11, 2014. The 2014 inductee is Dr. Marva Rudolph. We will honor her twenty plus years of dedicated service to advancing diversity and inclusion at the University of Tennessee.

We will honor other leaders in the African American community with our Trailblazer Series. Come and hear the experiences of our trailblazers: Theotis Robinson, Rita Geier, Dr. Mark Dean, and Valisia LeKae. The Trailblazer Series kicks off with Theotis Robinson on October 22 at 11:30 a.m. in the Hodges Library Auditorium. You can learn more about the series at

Dr. Marva L. Rudolph Fund

We are pleased to announce the creation of a fund in honor of Dr. Marva L. Rudolph. The fund will honor the legacy of Dr. Rudolph, a champion of diversity and inclusion.

Contributions to the fund will support student efforts to develop skills to work effectively across differences or to lead campus initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Marva L. Rudolph Fund

Dr. Marva L. Rudolph Fund Description

For more information, email


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