As social unrest sweeps across the nation, the University of Houston-Victoria is taking steps to address the issue as a university and as a part of the community it serves.

The UHV Diversity and Race Task Force was created in July at the request of UHV President Bob Glenn after Victoria Mayor Rawley McCoy and representatives from state Rep. Geanie Morrison’s office approached him about taking the lead in a community conversation about a Confederate soldier statue in downtown Victoria.

With that in mind, the president asked Chance Glenn, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs, to take the lead in creating a task force to focus on this and other conversations about diversity and inclusion at UHV and in the Victoria community. The work groups are open to UHV faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members.

“UHV is a special place, and this task force is meant to be a way to focus on making the university a place where everyone feels welcome,” Provost Glenn said. “We want the university to be an oasis for people in Victoria and for those outside who come here or are even passing through. Above all, we want Victoria to be an inclusive community that promotes and supports education.”

The task force is made up of work groups and focuses on five specific areas of the university and community outreach: curriculum; recruitment and retention; campus programs; diversity and the greater community; and sustainable diversity. Members of each of the work groups meet regularly to plan ways to promote diversity and awareness on campus and in the community, such as events, voter registration information and other projects. The task force is led by three co-chairs representing the faculty, staff and students at UHV, and 60 UHV employees and students are participating.

“Although COVID-19 is forcing us to take a more cautious approach to planning community outreach events, the task force and work groups are dedicated to finding ways to reach others and share the importance of diversity,” said Amina Patton, a UHV assistant professor of communication design and faculty co-chair of the task force. “Every individual is invested in making this a long-term effort to serve the needs of both UHV and the Victoria community.”

Part of the process of planning future initiatives and events involves examining what the university is already doing and finding ways to improve or do something different, said Rebecca Lake, UHV senior director of equal access and staff co-chair for the task force.

For example, the university hosts diversity-themed events such as the A.D. Sheffield Symposium on African American History, the Martín De León Symposium on the Humanities and the UHV International Festival. The task force and work groups are looking for ways that certain events can be offered quarterly and possibly find ways to partner with community nonprofit organizations to expand the reach of the events.

The UHV Executive Committee, made up of the president and the university’s vice presidents, recently approved funding for one of the first recommendations to come out of the task force, the CommUNITY Book Club. The club begins on Oct. 20 and will partner with three Victoria nonprofits and organizations: Victoria County United Way, Be Well Victoria Coalition and Center for Peace Victoria. As part of the partnership, UHV will share book club information and purchase physical and e-book copies to help students and employees participate in book club events. The books chosen for the book clubs will be written by diverse authors and will cover topics central to diversity. The first book will be “How To Be An Anti-Racist” by Ibram Kendi. The club has a Facebook page, and UHV faculty, staff and students, and community members who want to register for the club can go to www.jotform.com/form/202658560490155.

“This first program is an exciting step forward for the UHV task force and the community,” Lake said. “We’ve received a great response from the university, and it’s wonderful to see how this has become such a clear priority for UHV and the community it serves. We’re looking forward to even more programs in the future.”

To learn more about the task force and find out how to get involved, go to www.uhv.edu/president/diversity.

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