Diversity is the celebration of disparate colors, identities, abilities and much, much more. One of the compelling reasons why I chose the University of Florida was its commitment to diversity and inclusion; however, I quickly realized the college was still in its adolescence in its initiative of inclusive excellence. So, when I heard the announcement that UF hired its first Chief of Diversity, I was thrilled — and even more excited to have the opportunity to speak with Antonio one-on-one before class recently.
From his demeanor, I could sense that Antonio was a great listener who prioritized care and open mindedness, hallmarks of a leader in higher education in America. As the conversation /ensued, I was able to share some specific implementations on improving communication between various departments and students of all abilities. Antonio was different than any other faculty member I have broached about improving he Gator Nation. He genuinely wants to make UF better for the students, not just for the glossy look on paper or online. He is going to do great things during his time here!
I appreciate Antonio’s unique perspective on diversity. For instance, I talk about diversity and inclusion on a daily basis but he made me stop and think about a truer meaning. He completely changed my thought process on the matter: diversity does not fix anything; it provides an environment for a common cause! Everyone has their own story of origin, of how they arrived at UF, he explained. But how they use those experiences will serve as the fuel to ignite a positive change together.
Change takes a coordinated effort from all parties involved and support from each other to achieve the end goal. We live in an age where different generations think their way is tantamount but don’t always listen to other perspectives. If we can encourage groundbreaking innovations, we have the ability to create something resilient. We need to push the boundaries and test the strength of inclusion, safety nets, and equity. College campuses are especially in need of a resilient system that gives and takes, listens and responds. At the end of the day, everyone matures at their own pace, but the empowerment to embrace change is constant. It is a fine balance between constantly taking risks and living in the moment. Diversity goes deeper than equality. It’s complex storytelling where individuals can – and should – use their experiences for a common vision.