Converse has implemented multiple initiatives as we continue to strive towards becoming an inclusive campus community that truly Acts Justly.
Gifts to Support Diversity Initiatives
We have received two gifts to further support diversity and inclusion initiatives at Converse.
Jones Rushing Scholars Program
The generous donation made by Emily Jones Rushing ’73 and her husband, Hugh, will support the Office of Diversity and Inclusion by creating the Jones Rushing Scholars Program. This scholarship fund is a four-year undergraduate program that will help to recruit, retain, and graduate students from underrepresented populations while supporting Diversity and Inclusion at Converse through an appropriate balance of scholarships and general needs. This program will also encourage engagement in programs that will better prepare students post-graduation, including serving in a leadership role on campus. Finally, it will provide student-worker support to roles that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion across campus.
Dr. Kay Woodward Endowment
Phyllis Perrin Harris ’85 and former Chair of the Board of Trustees endowed The Dr. Kay Woodward Endowment for programmatic support within the Converse College for Women to address leadership and the disparities of Black women who enter the workforce. The funds will be used for a speaker series; mentorship and empowerment; women-centered learning; entrepreneurship skills; and/ or service and leadership programs and activities to accomplish this goal. The program will be open to all women but with the true purpose of leadership activities to further Black students’ professional outcomes. The naming of the gift is in honor of Dr. Kay Woodward, the first Black faculty member at Converse.
Diversity Strategic Plan
The Diversity Strategic Plan was updated in June 2020, and under the leadership of Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion/ Title IX Coordinator Danielle Stone the focus this year has been on the following goals:
- Defining and establishing Diversity and Advisory Committee (DAC) as a known committee and resource on campus by promoting goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the College through active outreach to the campus community:
- The DAC met bi-weekly the academic year, and was made of diverse populations from various campus departments and student leaders/representatives.
- This committee held programs throughout the year and led conversations of equity and equality throughout our campus.
- Facilitating mentorships that bring the greater Upstate community onto campus and build bridges with that community to support the underrepresented populations in our community:
- A mentorship program was established this Spring through our Office of Diversity and Inclusion that pairs our undergraduate students with mentors in our community, who also happen to be alumni of Converse.
- Promoting a welcoming campus climate that supports students of underserved and/or underrepresented populations:
- Held our first diversity fair for students to see the different diversity groups that we offered on campus.
- Established new traditions on campus through ongoing programs such as a monthly conversation called DiversiTea.
- Held forums with Campus Safety to enhance transparency, conversation, and action within the department and across the campus community.
- Establishing mechanisms for reporting and bringing awareness of incidents of bias, hate, discrimination, and harassment matters:
- We created forms and procedures to improve our reporting process for incidents of bias.
- We established our Restorative Justice model within that reporting system.
- We added more comprehensive information to the Diversity, Community, and Inclusion webpage.
- We created a form to provide preferred names and pronouns to faculty for class rolls.
Multicultural Center in Montgomery Student Center
The Student Government Association suite in Montgomery Student Center is being renovated to create an inclusive environment for students to connect with each other and take part in collaborative and engaging conversations and programming.
The freshly painted center will have:
- New carpet
- New furniture to accommodate more social gatherings and a place to hang out and to learn more about others
- New office spaces
- A new window mural
The overall project will be completed by the beginning of August as we welcome back our students for the fall term.
DEIC Alumni Committee
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) was established during the summer of 2020 to create, support, and sustain alumni communities that reflect the diversity of our alumni population, reinforcing a mutual respect for each other and a sense of belonging and purpose within our collective Converse community. The DEIC will partner with Converse’s Office of Community and Inclusion in hosting diverse programming for students and alumni. The mentoring program re-established by the DEIC will also provide opportunities for students and alumni to engage in mutually rewarding relationships focused on academic, personal, and professional goals.
Members of DEIC include Jessica Backman ’16, ex-officio; Melissia Brannen ’03; Sophia Crawford-Mapp ’13; Shenna Gaines ’13; Sonya Gray ’15; Rachel Hansen ’08; Katy Kline ’13; Christi Lewis ’95, Chair; Chunsta Miller ’02; Cary Perkins ’96; Libby Tilson ’79; Miya Walker ’12, Co-chair; and Bonnie Webster ’94.
In celebration of Juneteenth, we are holding a video viewing of our history of Converse depicting where we were, where we are, and where we are going as an institution in regards to our history of Black Americans. This event will be held in Barnet on Wednesday, June 16, starting at 11:30 am. The viewing of the video and discussion will begin at noon. For those that would like to join us virtually, a link will be sent out the week of via Daily Announcements.
In addition, in celebration and acknowledgement of Juneteenth, Friday, June 18, 2021, will be a new paid holiday for Converse employees.
Juneteenth, also known as African American Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth” in honor of the announcement that tens of thousands of African-Americans in Texas had been emancipated, closing the door on one of the last chapters of slavery in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, a Union General rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended, and slaves had been freed. Though the Emancipation Proclamation became law in January 1863, it could not be enforced in places still under confederate control. Thus it took over two years for approximately 250,000 Texas slaves to learn their freedom had been secured by the government (source: History.com).
Juneteenth marks a date of major significance in American history and shows us that freedom and racial equality have always been a hard-fought battle for Black Americans – a battle that continues to this day. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.
The Juneteenth holiday is a reminder that “nobody is free until everybody is free.” It should be celebrated as the day when all Americans were liberated and created equal it should be a day to reflect, to learn, and to grow as a nation and as people. There are many ways you can observe and celebrate this holiday, from supporting Black businesses to educating yourself, to using your voice to spread love. You can also take time to share the stories of Black people you admire, and learn about prominent Black figures in American history.