February 23, 2007

Purdue Provost Sally Mason made these comments on Feb. 23 as part of the Mosaic celebration dinner.

Purdue's 'Mosaic' to celebrate our differences

All people, no matter where we live or who we are, have one thing in common. We are all different.

Welcome to Purdue University’s celebration of our differences.

This is a very significant day in the long history of our university. I thank you all for joining us at this important event as we announce diversity initiatives that will help shape the 21st century at Purdue.

We are embedding diversity in our university policies. We are making our campus a place where diversity is truly celebrated as a source of strength and a fountain of knowledge. We are building a university that will fulfill the promise of opportunity. We are creating a spirit of openness that welcomes all people.

Diversity is among the overarching initiatives in our strategic plans.

This means it is part of everything we are working to accomplish in learning, discovery and engagement. It is part of student and faculty recruitment, staff hiring and promotion, university contracting, graduation rates, research ... Everything.

In order to accomplish our goals in learning, discovery and engagement, we must be successful in our diversity initiatives in each of these areas.

What is diversity?

The easy answer is that diversity is bringing together people of different ethnicities, nationalities, religions and philosophies. Diversity involves sexual orientation. It involves gender. It involves age. It includes people with disabilities. It is people with different skills and backgrounds.

But diversity is really more than all of this.

Diversity is an attitude. Diversity is a feeling within a community. It is openness and acceptance. Diversity is caring.

You can bring all the different people in the world together in one place and without a positive attitude and feeling, without openness, acceptance and caring, you will not have diversity.

I believe Purdue is very much a diverse community.

Our numbers show that Purdue diversity is growing. But numbers alone don’t tell the whole story. Numbers are simply one way we can track our progress.

People are the heart of diversity. Each one of us has the responsibility for growing and sustaining diversity.

We have been doing this. But I believe together we can do even better.

In fact, I believe the time has come when we must do more.

In an effort to think long-term about diversity issues, two and a half years ago I convened a universitywide Diversity Leadership Group. It was composed of faculty, staff, students and administrators.

A great deal of time was spent examining diversity efforts at Purdue, both historically and in the current context. The purpose of this committee became to draft plans for institutionalizing and preserving the dynamic quality of our diversity efforts, and, most particularly, for improving the overall climate for diversity.

Key needs for students, staff and faculty were addressed, not only to advance our diversity initiatives, but also to embed diversity firmly within the fabric of this great university.

I would like all the members of this committee who worked so hard on this to please stand so we can recognize what you have accomplished. Thank you for what you have helped to craft.

We refer to the plan as our Mosaic. It is multi-faceted and focused on inclusion and equity for all.

America has long been called a melting pot. But that is not what it is. That is not what it should be.

A melting pot blends everyone into one. That is not America.

America is more like a bouquet. It is a bouquet of many very different people — a beautiful mosaic.

At Purdue we want our campus to be a mosaic — a mosaic that recognizes the beauty and value of the many diverse backgrounds and viewpoints that make this university great. This is what we want at Purdue.

Our plan is titled "Toward a Mosaic for Educational Equity." It is a Purdue vision and action plan.

This Mosaic includes new initiatives. And it strengthens efforts that are already under way at Purdue.

For almost a year, the university community has been reviewing this plan and improving it. Now, this evening, we are introducing it publicly for the first time and officially launching its initiatives.

Our Mosaic is about educating people — the lifeblood of the university — to create an inspiring and nurturing community for all. This Mosaic will be Purdue's guiding light for a vibrant multicultural and inclusive educational community.

The key to success in this endeavor is leadership: leadership of individuals and teams, leadership from executives to the grassroots of Purdue. This leadership will be nurtured. It will be empowered as key strategies are implemented.

Here are twelve of the priorities in our Mosaic:

• One — vigorously communicate the vision of Mosaic widely across all university constituencies with sustained continuity and elevated visibility.

• Two — strive for senior-level and key leadership appointments with underrepresented populations.

• Three — expect the inclusion of candidates from appropriate underrepresented populations in all pools of finalists.

• Four — develop and implement a promotion system for non-faculty employees, with equitable opportunities for advancing diversity.

• Five — encourage and support through incentives the exploration, adoption and development of best practices that result in participation of diverse populations across disciplines.

• Six — encourage, support with incentives new and innovative scholarship devoted to in-depth cultural studies, as well as development of academic environments shaped by multiple dimensions of human existence.

• Seven — develop and implement common first-year experiences for students, faculty and staff that reinforce the vision for a diverse Purdue.

• Eight — design and implement educational activities to assist all members of the Purdue community in learning how to create, embrace, support and disseminate multicultural activities and promote diversity.

• Nine — expand programs on global issues and perspectives involving visiting international leaders and scholars, and Purdue's international community.

• Ten — create an ombudsman position with sensitivity to the needs and cultures of diverse populations and expertise to address individual and collective issues affecting employees.

• Eleven — celebrate the successes and reward individuals for positive contributions toward improving diversity in learning, discovery and engagement; inclusiveness and global understanding; and corresponding campus climate.

• Twelve — Enrich the university environment to build a place where all students and employees can enjoy their connectedness with the institution and with each other as colleagues.

Through this Mosaic, our goal is nothing short of transforming this university. The focus of Mosaic is on the academic side of our campus.

As proud as I am or our plans and the work of our group, I am equally grateful to efforts that promote diversity across other broad sectors of Purdue.

Under the leadership of Morgan Olsen, Purdue executive vice president and treasurer, other far-reaching diversity initiatives are impacting university staff. And the efforts of our chief diversity officer Vice President Alysa Rollock affect everyone at Purdue.

Just this past year she hired Carolyn Johnson to lead the Diversity Resource Office. It is a great appointment to a very important initiative.

All of these efforts come together to make this university a welcoming community.

This is an exciting time. We have the ability and the determination we need to succeed. We need your help. We need your leadership.

The differences among us that we are celebrating tonight make us stronger as we work together. Through the Mosaic we are launching this evening, Purdue can and will be a model for 21st century higher education.

Thanks to our committee. Thanks to you all.


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