Student panel discusses diversity and inclusion with trustees

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) today (Feb. 23) presented a student panel discussion on diversity and inclusion with the Board of Trustees Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life.

Eight student panelists representing a variety of minority populations, ages and majors share their perspective on what it means to be a underrepresented student at Penn State. Trustee committee members asked students about their experiences, their suggestions for making Penn State a more welcoming community, ongoing obstacles and how the board can help with these efforts.  

The panel discussion was a continuation of the Board of Trustees Town Hall on Diversity and Inclusion held in November. In the November discussion, Trustees were the panelists and students asked the questions. By reversing the roles for the February panel, students had the opportunity to address key issues they have personally experienced.

Katie Jordan, UPUA vice president, moderated the discussion that focused on the feelings and perceptions of underrepresented students on campus, as well as encouraged more “difficult” conversations among various groups. Students on the panel also said they would like to see more faculty and staff attend planned diversity events. The student leaders indicated that these programs could help faculty and staff gain more information about minority student needs, their challenges or just a general overview of other cultures.   

The Feb. 23 discussion was one of several events this year aimed at connecting students with University decision makers. UPUA held a similar diversity and inclusion panel presentation with the University Faculty Senate in September.

“Diversity and inclusion is one of UPUA’s top three priorities for the year,” said Terry Ford, UPUA president. “One of the themes of UPUA’s diversity and inclusion initiatives is providing access for minority students to some of the key decision-making bodies at the University. This panel continued that dialogue between the highest governing body and our minority student body.”

Penn State leaders and the Board of Trustees have an ongoing interest in facilitating these conversations with students on diversity and inclusion with the goal of making Penn State a welcoming community for everyone. The Board of Trustees Committee on Academic Affairs and Student Life heard from a similar student panel last year with Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, moderating the discussion.

In October, Penn State began a University-wide initiative that brings the Penn State community together to show its commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment. “All In at Penn State” encourages all students, faculty, staff and friends of Penn State to take an active role in promoting an accepting climate, including through conversations with others in the community.

Last Updated April 19, 2017