For its commitment to advancing diversity goals on many fronts, the University of Virginia has been named a 2012 recipient of a diversity award from Minority Access Inc.

Dr. Marcus Martin, U.Va.’s vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, accepted the award at the organization’s annual National Role Models Conference, held Sept. 28 through 30 in Orlando. U.Va. was among 27 schools nationwide recognized for their dedication to recruiting, retaining and educating students, faculty and staff from diverse and underrepresented groups and for creating an inclusive setting for all.

Other schools in Virginia who received the award were James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg.

Minority Access Inc. is a non-profit educational organization that supports individuals, academic institutions, corporations and federal, state and local government agencies in diversifying campuses and worksites by improving the recruitment, retention and enhancement of minorities.

“We are inspired each year by the strategies that colleges and universities employ to advance diversity on their campuses,” said Andrea Mickle, president of Minority Access.

To be considered for the award, institutions submitted descriptions of their diversity efforts and successes. U.Va.’s Office for Diversity and Equity included in its submission the background that led to establishing the office and the chief officer for diversity position. These ideas arose from a long list of recommendations produced by the 2003 Commission on Diversity and Equity – a list that still guides the office today, according to Martin, who has served in his post since 2009.

“Diversity at the University is valued and leveraged in pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and service,” Martin said. “The University community is proud of the progress that has been made in the area of diversity and inclusion.”

Martin credited Office of Undergraduate Admission’s recruiting efforts, the AccessUVa financial aid program and multicultural service providers such as the Office of African-American Affairs and the LGBT Resource Center (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students) with helping diversify and serve the student population.

The University graduated the highest percentage of African-American students among all public universities for 16 consecutive years, with a six-year graduation rate of 85 percent or higher, as reported by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, which stopped compiling the ranking after 2010.

Another successful program the diversity office oversees is the Virginia-North Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation. The alliance is designed to increase the quality and quantity of students, particularly underrepresented minority students, who pursue degrees and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as the “STEM” fields. Data show the number of underrepresented minority students in the alliance receiving undergraduate STEM degrees has increased by 67 percent over the past five years.

Beyond the Grounds, U.Va.’s collaboration with the community to produce a two-week Martin Luther King celebration in both 2011 and 2012 is an example of the many multicultural and diversity events held throughout the year, Martin said.

Also included in the nomination package was the University’s official statement on its commitment to diversity:

“Diversity stands with ethics, integrity and academic excellence, as a cornerstone of University culture. The University promotes an inclusive and welcoming environment that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives and disciplines. When people of different backgrounds come together, they exchange ideas, question assumptions (including their own) and broaden the horizons for us all. A University of Virginia community rich in diversity affords every member equal respect – and provides a forum for understanding our differences as well as our commonalities.”

-Source: UVAToday