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USC named among nationís best for diversity

By Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-7704

The University of South Carolina has been named one of the nation’s top universities for diversity and inclusivity by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

USC was the only college in South Carolina and one of two universities in the Southeastern Conference (the other is Louisiana State University) to earn the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from the publication. Forty-seven colleges and universities received the inaugural award from the magazine, which is considered the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

"The University of South Carolina is proud to foster an environment where individual backgrounds are celebrated and a free exchange of ideas is encouraged," said President Harris Pastides. "As educators we have a responsibility to model ethical behavior, respect and civility for our students and serve as examples as we prepare them to enter an increasingly diverse workforce."

USC and the other award honorees will be featured in the magazine’s December 2012 issue. The award recognizes exemplary initiatives for all aspects of diversity including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

“We view diversity as an asset and we’re committed to creating a welcoming environment at the University of South Carolina that ensures equity and fosters respect, honors differences and enriches the learning and work experiences for our faculty, staff and students,” said Bobby Gist, executive assistant to the president for Equal Opportunity programs. “We’ve made tremendous strides, and this award is affirmation of what we value and our hard work.”

Gist, who leads the university’s equal opportunity/diversity and affirmative action program, said the award recognizes the culmination of many initiatives.

Through its recruiting and enrollment efforts, USC has amassed the most diverse student population in South Carolina and one of the most diverse in the Southeast. Of its 44,000 students, 17.1 percent are African-American, 3.5 percent are Hispanic and 2.4 percent Asian and/or Pacific islanders.

Contributing to this are resources and peer mentoring programs for minority and international students, and programs such as the Gamecock Guarantee, which promises academically eligible, low-income, first-generation South Carolina students will pay no tuition or technology fees.

Extending beyond diversity policies, practices, recruiting and training and administrative offices devoted to the needs of specific populations, USC has professional associations for women and black faculty and staff and advisory committees to address matters of diversity, health services, disabilities, salary equity, women and gender and religious affairs.

Additionally, the university offers a rich calendar of multicultural and diversity events for the campus and greater community that includes an annual Martin Luther King commemoration and civil rights tour of Southern states for students as well as observances for black history, Hispanic heritage, Native American and women’s history and international education.

Supporting that commitment and activity is the Carolinian Creed, the university’s social honor code established in 1990 as a complement to the university’s conduct code and as a way to underscore the university’s values of tolerance, civility and the respect for the dignity of others.

President Pastides was recognized for his commitment to fostering civility at the university by the Columbia Urban League at its 45th Annual Equal Opportunity Day Dinner held last month. Pastides was honored with the Urban League’s President Award for his leadership on civility. The Urban League is calling for more civil conversation among S.C. residents.

INSIGHT into Diversity magazine, too, is calling for improvement in matters of civility and diversity and sees the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award and its application process not only as a way to recognize universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion but also to help colleges and universities identify opportunities to improve.

“We hope the HEED award serves as a reminder that diversity and inclusion must remain priorities in the 21st-century higher education landscape,” said Lenore Pearlstein, the magazine’s publisher. “Our students of today are the employees of tomorrow and the future of our country. As students begin to enter the workforce and a global society, they must first be surrounded by and supported by faculty and staff that understand the differences among cultures and their needs.”

More information about the HEED award and this year’s list of recipients is available on the website.

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Posted: 11/20/12 @ 11:00 AM | Updated: 11/20/12 @ 3:49 PM | Permalink

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