The diversity commissions and council serve the campus under the direction of the Division of Diversity and Engagement (DDE). The commissions and council exist to ensure that students, staff, and faculty from underrepresented populations have a welcoming, supportive and inclusive climate on Knoxville’s campus. DDE works in partnership with the commissions and councils to provide additional support and resources to confirm an inclusive culture and climate can be achieved. Together, DDE and the commissions and council work to foster and maintain a climate of equity and inclusion for all Vols.
Commission for Blacks Co-Chairs
- JaNay’ Turner, Coordinator for Diversity Recruitment, Office of Undergraduate Admissions
- Ryessia Russell, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Programs, Haslam College of Business
- James Williams, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences
The Commission for Blacks is a body that is appointed by and reports to the Chancellor. The purpose of the commission is to provide guidance on planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services, as they relate to Black students, staff, and faculty. The commission is dedicated to the protection and retention of all Black and African American students, staff and faculty on campus. The body also recommends changes to current and future university policies and procedures as they specifically relate to students, staff, and faculty of color. They work to enhance the racial climate on campus and to provide an environment for civil discourse around issues of race, racism and biases.
The Commission for Blacks participates in various events on campus and in the Knoxville Community to promote racial inclusiveness. In the 2019-2020 academic year, members of the commission marched in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade with the University, participated as a partner of “Open Doors: A Campus and Community Connection”, and co-sponsored the 3rd Annual Celebration of Black Excellence Gala. The commission also participated in the African American Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Each year the commission recognizes two individuals for their contribution in promoting diversity and inclusion on campus via the Gene Mitchell Gray Pioneer Award and Hardy Liston Jr. Symbol of Hope Award. This year, the Commission for Blacks will be providing leadership for a virtual Joint Chancellor Awards Celebration for all of the commissions and council.
Commission for Women Co-Chairs
- Joan Heminway, Interim Director of the Institute for Professional Leadership, Rick Rose Distinguished Professor of Law
- Catherine Luther, Professor and Director in Journalism & Electronic Media, College of Communication and Information
The Commission for Women at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a body appointed by the Chancellor to advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status of women at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This group also collaborates with the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Diversity and Engagement to ensure equity, integrity and that students, faculty and staff matter and belong. The most important priorities for the Commission for Women are centered around promoting women’s leadership by supporting and enhancing mentoring and professional development, and advocating for sexual assault awareness and prevention. This group also evaluates relevant policies and programs, advocates for pay equity across genders, and recognizes the contributions of women on UT campus.
For the spring 2019-2020 academic year, the Commission for Women developed several objectives and initiatives to increase visibility and ensure support and involvement from the campus community. Successes for the spring academic year include the 100 Video Clips to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage. This initiative was created in conjunction with the Women’s Suffrage/Voting Rights movement. Each year, the Commission for Women recognizes leaders and initiatives that support women on campus through the Notable UT Woman Award and the Angie Warren Perkins Award.
Commission for LGBT People Chair
- Mitsunori Misawa, Associate Professor, Program Co-Coordinator, Associate Department Head of Educational Psychology and Counseling, College of Education, Health & Human Sciences
The Commission for LGBT People is a body appointed by the Chancellor to serve and advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The goal of the commission is to ensure that faculty, students and staff have a voice, matter and belong. The Vice Chancellor’s Office for Diversity and Engagement collaborates in conjunction with the Commission for LGBT People to cultivate an inclusive campus climate of integrity and equity. This past year, the commission developed several objectives in an effort to increase visibility as well as support for the LGBTQ+ community on the campus.
Each year, the commission supports the OUTstanding Conference, a yearly event held at the University of Tennessee to explore issues within the LGBTQ community. Members of the commission are also involved in various initiatives that help to educate the campus community on complex diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. In Spring 2019, one of the Co-Chairs, Dr. Mitsunori Misawa served as a guest speaker for the United in Hidden Difference panel discussion, which was sponsored by the Diversity Committee of the Faculty Senate. The goal of this initiative was to guide members of our community in a dialogue around invisible difference. In addition, the Commission for LGBTQ+ People recognizes excellent leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion through their LGBT Student Leadership and LGBT Advocate Awards.
Commission for Disability Co-Chairs
- Jill Malolepszy, Deputy ADA Coordinator, Office of Equity and Diversity
- Rob Spirko, Senior Lecturer, Department of English
The Commission for Disability aims to provide support for individuals with disabilities—students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors. Our purpose is to support and meet the needs of these different groups while educating individuals about disabilities in general.
In addition to advocating for support beyond traditional ADA accommodations, the commission seeks to create opportunities for individuals to share their experiences with disability on campus and elsewhere.
Council for Diversity and Inclusion Chair
- Erin Darby, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
The Council for Diversity and Inclusion serves as a resource for the Division of Diversity and Engagement as it works toward creating inclusive learning and work environments. The Council achieves this through partnerships, monitoring diversity data, and education. Each member of the council represents a different unit on campus to enhance conformity throughout the university. The representatives include members from Student Government Association and Graduate Student Senate to ensure students’ perspectives are taken into consideration. Among its current focuses are attracting and retaining faculty, staff and graduate students from historically under-represented populations and international students, and ensuring that undergraduate curriculum encompasses intercultural perspectives.
The council partners with the other commissions and organizations to promote and assist with diversity and inclusion initiatives. For example, the council may provide funding or request participation to support diversity events. The broad campus representation that makes up the council ensures a variety of communication outlets are reached when promoting events or making announcements. During the 2019-2020 academic year, the council provided funding for the Knoxville Arab Fest, served as a partner of “Open Doors: A Campus and Community Connection”, and recognized a department on campus that demonstrated outstanding diversity leadership via the Dr. Marva Rudolph Diversity and Interculturalism Unit Excellence Award.