Year of Diversity: A Starting Point

Issue Date: 
October 21, 2016

Phillip Anderson, a Pitt senior majoring in finance, stood amid the crowd that had gathered on the William Pitt Union lawn to celebrate Pitt’s Year of Diversity. It was a beautiful weekday afternoon, and several hundred students, faculty, and staff came together to mark the launch of the themed year.

Anderson said the diversity theme has special meaning for him. 

“I have a 17-year-old brother who is autistic,” he said. “People think diversity is all about race. But a diverse population includes people with social disorders and mental illness, too.”

Pitt's Year of Diversity will explore the significance of difference in creating learning communities and preparing students to value unfamiliar experiences. This includes differences across race, gender expression, veteran status, disability status, politics, ethnicity, and religion, as well as social inequalities.

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher speaks with a studentChancellor Patrick Gallagher urged the afternoon’s celebrants to view the Year of Diversity as a starting point for exploring the issues.

“This is a catalyst to do special things that will have a long-lasting impact across the University,” he said, adding that the Year of Diversity’s official calendar is filling quickly with events that “will look at diversity from every angle and perspective.” 

Pam Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, encouraged attendees to try something different as they explore the theme. As a way to expand horizons and deepen understanding, she noted: “This is a year of opportunity to mentor a student who doesn’t look like you. Or listen to views that are different from your own." 

Pitt student groups, faculty, and staff can submit event proposals to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion throughout the 2016-17 academic year. The Office of the Provost will provide matching funds of as much as $5,000 to qualifying proposals.

So far, more than 100 events are planned, including the Oct. 25 lecture, “Empowering Girls to Change the World,” by Kakenya Ntaiya, a Pitt alumnus and prominent social activist, and a Nov. 8 talk by Allegheny County Police Assistant Superintendent Maurita Bryant, “Race and Gender in the Police: Beyond the Blue Uniform.”