Inclusivity has been a major focus at University of Richmond as part of the Richmond Promise. As a result of the hard work of many faculty and students, the university will be honored May 3 with the Catalyst Award for supporting LGBTQ students and creating a more inclusive environment.
Presenting the award is ROSMY, a local organization based in Richmond that aims to ensure equal opportunities for LGBQT youth in Virginia.
Ted Lewis, associate director of Common Ground for LGBTQ campus life, said, “The only reason 2013 was successful is because of lots of work done by faculty, staff and students for decades here at the University of Richmond.”
Lewis said the award was honoring the past academic year and the work done in 2013 by the university. Besides all the past decades of work, Lewis said President Ed Ayers helped Richmond earn the award by making inclusivity part of the Richmond Promise, the university’s strategic plan.
Lewis said the award was thanks to many efforts, some of which were the Safe Zone program, faculty groups in the 1990s that fought for same-sex benefits, various student groups, Richmond adding sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy and more.
“It’s just been a long, long journey of lots of faculty, staff and students putting hard work to make the university a more inclusive place, and then sort of by proxy, working in the city to make the city a more inclusive place,” Lewis said.
Kristin Woods, assistant vice president in the Office of Alumni and Career Services, works as the staff adviser for LGBTQ Spiders, an alumni group that connects alumni and students in a supportive way through events and networking.
“I believe the award acknowledges and honors the hard work and dedication of the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have been focused on building a stronger, supportive environment for LGBTQ members of the University community,” Woods said in an email.
Woods said the group had been founded by the current chairman, Grant Yelverton, Richmond College ’06, April 26, 2011. “He has worked tirelessly to spread word of the group among alumni and to develop programs for LGBTQ Spiders,” Woods also said in the email.
“I think you will see that there’s a lot of really dedicated people who are outstanding in how much time and dedication they spend just working to make the place inclusive and welcoming to all walks of life,” Yazmeen Nuñez, a senior at Richmond, said.
Nuñez is a Resident Assistant in Q-Community, a Sophomore Scholars In Residence program about social justice. She is also a member of the Student Alliance for Sexual Diversity, a LGBTQ student group on campus, and an intern at Common Ground.
She said it had been astounding to witness the magnitude of focus the administration had put into changing inclusivity on campus.
Because of her multi-cultural heritage, Nuñez said she had been initially hesitant when she arrived at Richmond. She said she didn’t come from an environment like Richmond, and it made her feel isolated.
“I’m always really excited to talk to freshman who…glow about how Richmond is such a diverse and interesting place and how you can meet a wide variety of people,” Nuñez said.
“I’m happy for them because that’s not the Richmond that I knew as a freshman, but that’s the Richmond that I know now and I’m glad that they get to have that for themselves for all four years.”
Contact reporter Richard Arnett at firstname.lastname@example.org