By Lacey Keefer, Staff Writer —
The first-ever UT President’s Award for Diversity was awarded to UTC’s Dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies, Valerie Rutledge.
The UT President’s Awards began in 2015, as an effort to recognize accomplished faculty. Rutledge is the first to win this award in the new Diversity category. She said it is an honor not just for her, but for all the individuals who promote diversity.
“What a compliment. And what a compliment to our institution,” said Rutledge. “Because the things that I did were the things we were able to promote, and identify and move forward here on our campus. And it’s a nod to the fact that we’re doing our best to do what’s right, and what’s best for our students and our community.”
Rutledge’s efforts to diversify UTC focus on the recruitment, hiring and retention of faculty and staff from minority groups. For Rutledge, diversity is about keeping current with a changing society and creating role models for students.
“So we see reflected in our students now a changing demographic, in all sorts of ways,” said Rutledge. “It’s important for us to realize that we need to have some of that in our faculty and our staff. So people see themselves, and people see the potential for themselves in all of these different roles.”
Rutledge is the chair of the Diversity Advisory Council, which works with the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Rutledge has worked on the Mocs Forward Conference that began two years ago and gives faculty and staff exposure to diversity. She assists in annually sending different groups of faculty to the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, where they discuss issues and action related to diversity.
But Rutledge’s favorite diversity program, Grow Your Own, identifies candidates from underrepresented groups and provides support for them after hiring them.
“In our college, we’ve had a great deal of success with that. And now we have very, very talented and successful individuals who made all the way through tenure and are now in leadership roles,” said Rutledge.
For the future, Rutledge wants to continue to think intentionally about who UTC is hiring and continue efforts to make them feel welcome.
“If we don’t do that, then we have short-changed ourselves and our students. So I think we have to think about it all the time,” said Rutledge.