Binghamton University’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is relaunching the UDiversity Educational Institute (UDiversity) to encourage diversity-centered training for students and faculty.

According to their website, UDiversity is committed to providing the campus community with professional development and “diversity-focused” training. The Institute works with several constituency groups to foster an inclusive academic and residential environment for all students and staff members and aims to “increase cultural competency skills” to encourage a “deeper” understanding of diverse backgrounds and culture.

Karen Jones, BU’s vice president for DEI, expanded on UDiversity’s mission and its impact on students, staff and administrators.

“UDiversity’s primary goal is to support the Division of [DEI] in its efforts to promote and sustain an inclusive campus community,” Jones wrote in an email. “Our programs and services are uniquely tailored to engage, inform and support campus members on topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility and belonging. The relaunch of UDiversity focuses on introducing the new staff team to our various campus constituents and the larger community and providing carefully curated training and workshops, creating new opportunities to meet the needs of the ever-changing landscape in higher education.”

As part of their mission, UDiversity organizes and offers various workshops for students and staff to attend throughout the academic year. While many are structured for the broader campus community, some are individualized to fit the needs of a specific audience. On-campus organizations can also request a targeted workshop, in order to curate a discussion tailored to an individual group’s specific focus.

Régina Nguyen, the assistant director for diversity education, elaborated on UDiversity’s programming, which will continue to educate student organizations and faculty members on diversity and cultural awareness.

“UDiversity is supporting the Inclusive Pedagogy series led by Assistant Vice President for Diversity Nicole Sirju-Johnson,” Nguyen wrote in an email. “New faculty members are strongly encouraged to attend, as these programs help build on a critical knowledge base. Additionally, UDiversity continues collaborating with various student organizations and campus partners to deliver training on cultural competency, cultural humility, bias, microaggressions and inclusive and culturally responsive organizations. We also have a few experiential learning activity sessions that we will be rolling out in the next few months. Students, staff and faculty are encouraged to join.”

Students are encouraged to apply for internship opportunities with UDiversity, in order to strengthen their personal knowledge of equity and inclusion and gain experience as a liaison. Student liaisons assist in planning efforts and executing events and workshops and take on the role of “student ambassador” for the Institute in order to garner support for its mission.

BU’s UDiversity program alumni include Lea Webb, the current New York state senator for the 52th District, who was the former diversity education coordinator. Webb was elected to Binghamton’s City Council in 2007 and has worked with nonprofit organizations to establish more housing locally. She has also played a prominent role in passing equal pay legislation in Binghamton.

Lauren Peralta, the publicity chair of the Philippine-American League and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, said that diversity education was important, especially in a college setting.

“Spreading diversity awareness is a big mission of my organization on campus,” Peralta wrote. “It has provided not only me, but many of my other fellow peers a sense of home on campus.”

Esha Shah, a member of the Hindu Student Council and a sophomore majoring in biology, said that bonds are formed between students through mutual recognition of diverse cultures and backgrounds.

“Diversity awareness is important because it encourages acceptance and creates new friendships,” Shah wrote. “It also allows us to acknowledge the differences between people.”