Aztec leaders awarded for diversity efforts

by Elisse Miller

San Diego State honored several Aztec leaders for their commitment to campus diversity last Wednesday at the ninth annual SDSU Diversity Awards celebration. Attendees were welcomed into a culturally diverse environment with music from South America, cuisine from around the globe and an American Sign Language translator.  The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Union, one of the first LGBT organizations to exist in the San Diego area, took home the Student Organization Diversity Award.

“I think the work that we’re doing is always changing, but we’re always just continuing what our main mission is, and that is to provide a safe space for everyone,” LGBTSU President Michael Manacop said.

Faculty Diversity Award recipient Nola Butler-Byrd expressed her excitement about the organizations because she says the LGBT community is an often-ignored
minority group.

“Cultural competency is really an important skill set for all of us to develop in order to make the world a better place,” Butler-Byrd said.  “If there’s one thing I want to get across to everybody, it’s that we’ve come a long way. But we have a long way to go in terms of making the world a place where everybody has equal access and can become all they can be in society.”

A total of five awards presented at the ceremony. Founder of the community-based program Embrace, Sean Sheppard won the Alumni Diversity Award.
Director of Compact Scholars Jane Abbott won the Staff Diversity Award. Philosophy undergraduate Joshua Stutz, psychology undergraduate Karalani Cross and kinesiology master’s degree students Sarah Kirtland and Kayli Dalton were all recipients of the Student Research Symposium Diversity Award.  The awards were designed by SDSU students and consisted of symbolic materials such, as bamboo and steel.
Chief Diversity Officer Aaron Bruce hosted the night of celebration.

“We are one of the top 20 ethnically diverse universities in the country. So it makes it very easy to have conversations about diversity when you have a diverse population of people,” Bruce said.  “We have a great playground within the San Diego community that makes it really easy for people to engage in conversations and activities around diversity which includes not just race and ethnicity, but also religion, physical ability and
sexual orientation.”

Educational Opportunity Programs Assistant Vice President and Director Reginald Blaylock reflected on SDSU’s history as a diversity-rich campus.
“Diversity has been a part of the fabric of this campus for the last 116 years,” Blaylock said.  “We celebrate our diversity.  We think it’s part of the strength of who we are as a campus and as a community.”
Associated Vice President of Student Affairs Eric Rivera said there’s no achievement gap at SDSU, meaning Caucasian students and minority students graduate at the same rate.

“When we look at the number of, for example, Latino faculty or African-American faculty, compared to other schools, we’re in a great place,” Rivera said. “When students can look at those role models and see the light at the end of the tunnel, it makes a difference.  No matter who you are, there’s a space for you at SDSU.”