North Texas Daily

University receives HEED Award for 5th consecutive year

University receives HEED Award for 5th consecutive year

University receives HEED Award for 5th consecutive year
September 30
12:15 2022

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has recognized the university for the fifth consecutive year as a recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

“The HEED Award is a nationally recognized award that is given to any number of institutions,” said Teresa Mckinney, assistant vice president of the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access. “You have to submit an application, and basically, it’s just the recognition for trying to create inclusive colleges and universities.”

Including requirements to qualify for the HEED award, the application looks at every aspect of the campus community to analyze the efforts made by the school to be a pillar for diversity. 

“They’re looking across the entire university, so we have to submit data from admissions,” Mckinney said. “We have to submit data that is inclusive of all departments on campus based on the type of questions asked.”

The efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive campus have been a priority for the university, which joined 19 other universities as founding members of the Alliance of Hispanic Research Universities. The alliance focuses on increasing opportunities for those historically underserved by education. 

“Well, I think it’s so important I’m a first-generation college student, and I really understand the transformational power of education,” IDEA Vice President Joanne Woodard said.”Its ability, you know, to be a portal and open doors to gain you entry into a lot of spaces.”

Woodard has been IDEA’s vice president for the last seven years, five of which have been HEED-winning years. Woodard previously held a similar role at North Carolina State University.

IDEA includes four sections — Equal Opportunity and Title IX, Diversity and Inclusion, the Multicultural Center and the Pride Alliance — with each group focusing on specific goals to foster an inclusive community and help reach students who might feel isolated.

“You could be here in this sea of students, and you think, ‘oh my gosh, I don’t know anybody,'” Woodard said. “Unless you feel included [and] you feel part of the campus community where people care about you and want to see you achieve your goals.”

The campus’ population has grown by 5.6 percent in fall 2022, introducing more opportunities for inclusivity on campus.

“I personally think that the inclusivity is great,” computer engineering freshman Leonel Torres said. “Everyone here is embracing everybody on campus. I’ve been making friends and [have] been more and more involved and hopeful to be one of those people that can keep that impact on others down the road.”

IDEA has aspirations to continue its work of making the campus more inclusive and diverse.

“For the most part, we’re trying to ensure that [the university is] welcoming and truly caring — that’s everybody’s responsibility,” Woodard said. “I really hope that students will take the opportunity to see this as another way to learn more.”

The first step in this initiative is to create a way to increase positive interaction between students and with IDEA. 

“We need to practice servant leadership, so if serving is beneath you then leadership is beyond you,” Mckinney said. “And so, we try to make sure that we’re always serving.”

Students can get involved with IDEA by attending events and diversity-and-inclusion trainings.

“So [the Diversity and Inclusion unit has] different two-hour trainings [and] different certifications programs,” Mckinney said. “And we also offer customized training for anybody on campus if they want to receive training on how to be more inclusive […]. We also sponsor the annual Equity and Diversity Conference.” 

While not selected for this year, the university is also continuing to create change to be one of the five schools selected for the HEED Diversity Champion Award in the future. 

“There’s always something we can be doing to try and better educate the campus community because that’s what you came to college for  —to learn,” Woodard said. “[My experiences shape] the work that I do to ensure that folks who come behind me and folks who look like me have that level playing field to be able to access the opportunities here at UNT to the same degree as anybody else.”  

Featured Image: The Division of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access tables at an event in the Library Mall on Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Coralynn Cole

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Gianna Ortner-Findlay

Gianna Ortner-Findlay

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