Diversity inherent in Feist-Price’s DNA


Sonja Feist-Price is the Vice President of Institutional Diversity at the University of Kentucky.

Aspen Gage

To be successful in any avenue, it can be assumed that intelligence and experience are valued attributes. For Dr. Sonja Feist-Price, she brings that and worlds more to the table. Recently named as the new Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Feist-Price has a multitude of plans and ideas for the campus and its students. But more than anything, she wants to see students succeed.

Feist-Price said that she values faculty and staff on campus that have open relationships with students on campus. While not every issue or concern that a student has makes it to the Office for Institutional Diversity, however, Feist-Price said that she wants her relationship with students to be a two-way one. But she also wants students to realize the power of their voice, and to utilize it.

“I’m of the mindset, whatever we’re working on programmatically, let’s bring students to the table,” Feist-Price said. “As faculty and staff, we see things a certain way. But it never takes the place of students being engaged in the conversation. Your voice is just as important as anyone else’s at the table.”

Feist-Price is a seasoned Wildcat, with 2017 marking her 25th year working on campus. Having been on campus for that long, and moving through different positions on campus, Dr. Feist-Price said she feels she can read the campus climate very well, and plans to continue to work with President Capilouto and Provost Tracy to develop a campus climate that is inclusive of all diverse and different people, beyond race and ethnicity.

Feist-Price’s concern for people with differing abilities stems from her personal and professional background. The discussion of diversity is important to her, and because of her background and family, diversity means more to her than just the unity of races on campus. It means including those with disabilities, those who identify as part of the LGBT community and whoever else classifies as ‘different’. One way Feist-Price hopes to encourage conversation between students is the Unconscious Bias Initiative.

“I look forward to creating opportunities for the students to talk about what their lived experiences are like, be able to share,” Feist-Price said. “And help each other understand what it’s like through those conversations, to develop empathy and understanding.”

The Unconscious Bias Initiative started with surveys, which nearly 8,000 students and faculty on campus participated in early in the Fall 2016 semester. The idea of the initiative is to ‘better foster a campus community for all people’ according to President Capilouto’s mission statement for the project, and Feist-Price is enthusiastically behind the idea.

A lot of factors drive Feist-Price to care so deeply about the campus and how it develops. She said a part of it is in her DNA and part of it is a spiritual conviction, adding that one professor she had at Southern Illinois University had a lot to do with how Feist-Price uses her voice critically.

“Dr. Miller saw the diamond in the rough and she opened doors for me,” Feist-Price said. “And that’s who I aspire to be for students.”

To any student who is wanting to make a change or has even the slightest idea of how to bring the campus together, Feist-Price said she is all ears.

“Let’s make it happen,” Feist-Price said. “Never hesitate, or underestimate the value of reaching out. I can help bring people together, and then we have a phenomenal think-tank and we can make some good things happen.”