Jackson: All students play a role in diversity

By Drew Bewley

Many students never actually consider what role they play for the future of the university. But on Wednesday night, J.J. Jackson challenged them to think about their part in UK’s development.

Jackson, the vice president for institutional diversity, spoke in an open forum with faculty and students at the Student Center Theatre. As Jackson continues to get acquainted with the campus, business freshman Tony Clarke said he is looking forward to what she will do for UK.

“She made a lot of good points and is going to be great for the university,” Clarke said. “We will be proud to be from the University of Kentucky and honored to say that.”

Almost three months ago, when Jackson first arrived in Lexington, she said many of the issues she heard about were things like sports and drops in enrollment at UK.

“I said I hear you but it is all in the past. You have only told me things that have happened many years before,” Jackson said.

One of UK’s goals is the Top 20 Business Plan. Jackson said that believing in yourself is a main part in heading toward this goal.

“If we try to reach above the stars and way above where we are now then we will be in that top twenty,” Jackson said.

Looking for a community where differences are expected but respect is due will help the university, she said, and if the university is striving for mutual respect, then human dignity and integrity will stand out.

“One way to get there is we need all those different colors and people with disabilities in our classrooms,” Jackson said.

For the university to get to the top 20, a collective process is needed. Jackson said this is essential because some issues cannot be accomplished all at once. Jackson called on every citizen in Lexington, not just UK students, to work together to encourage change.

Forums like this convince some students that diversity efforts are not just all talk, said Krystal Frieson, a counseling psychology and public health graduate student.

“I’m very happy there is an open forum where students and faculty can discuss issues like this. It makes me think there is some action and behaviors behind the initiatives,” Frieson said.

The UK African American Studies and Research Program sponsored the forum. Sonja Feist-Price, director of the program, said diversity is key to bettering all aspects of life.

“We all are far better off when we understand and appreciate diversity,” Feist-Price said. “Our lives are enriched when diversity is a part of existence, whether work, school or the community.”