UF receives ‘Excellence in Diversity’ honor

UF receives 'Excellence in Diversity' honor

The Earl and Christy Powell University House was filled with laughter, dancing and lively jazz music Monday evening, as guests gathered to celebrate the University of Florida’s recent achievements in the sphere of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

The event commemorated UF’s first university-wide diversity and inclusion accolade, the Insight into Diversity magazine 2022 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. The national honor recognizes the efforts made by universities to expand on DEI work across their campuses.

The award also assesses the initiatives, student recruitment and hiring practices at an institution. This year, the honor was granted to 104 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada that showcased exceptional dedication to diversity and inclusion.

At the ceremony, the UF College of Pharmacy and the UF College of Dentistry were praised for their efforts. The two were among 63 health profession colleges nationwide receiving this year’s Health Professions HEED award.

Marsha Currin McGriff, UF chief diversity officer and senior adviser to the president, was brimming with excitement as she took the lectern at the ceremony. McGriff thanked UF President Kent Fuchs for creating the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer and for displaying a steadfast resilience for the university’s DEI work.

Marsha McGriff, Ed.D

Marsha McGriff, Ed.D


Sharing an excerpt from the foreword of Greenleaf Servant Leadership by Stephen Covey, McGriff expressed her gratitude to Fuchs.

“It has generally been my experience that the very top people of great organizations are servant leaders. They’re the most humble, the most reverent, the most open, the most teachable, the most respectful, the most caring and the most determined,” she said, quoting Covey. “That is you Kent. You are a true servant leader. And I want to thank you for charting the course for inclusive excellence at the University of Florida.”

The Office of the Chief Diversity Officer has made various strides in promoting DEI across the university. The office has advanced several key initiatives, including a partnership with the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation, which is conducting a comprehensive assessment of the DEI landscape at UF. This assessment will be the foundation of UF’s inaugural inclusive excellence blueprint. In partnership with a network of leaders on campus, the office is also involved in two national projects – APLU Aspire IChange and AAAS SEA Change – that connect the university with peer institutions to catalyze institutional change. The office also supports UF’s faculty and staff affinity groups and, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, offers a certificate in multicultural mentoring.

The colleges of Dentistry and Pharmacy have also taken steps to promote diversity, which earned them their respective HEED awards.

The College of Dentistry has been recognized with a HEED award for eight consecutive years, as it has consistently showcased a commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment through a variety of endeavors,  like creating a diversity work group and providing crucial-conversations training for staff. Additionally, the college has implemented key pipeline programs for underrepresented students who are interested in the health professions and attained two of the most diverse Doctor of Dental Medicine classes in history. The college has also displayed a commitment to serving a diverse population of clients, as more than 70% of the college’s patients qualify for federal low-income guidelines.

Patty Xirau-Pibert, associate dean for advocacy and inclusion at the College of Dentistry, says it is an honor and a privilege to repeatedly be recognized with such a prestigious award.

“In 2022, we’re celebrating 50 years since we began training new dentists to serve the state and the nation, and our mission guides us to create an environment of inclusive excellence for our students, residents, faculty, staff and our patients,” she said. “The work we do today paves the road ahead for the next 50 years to come.”

This is the second year the College of Pharmacy has received the award, and it is one of only three pharmacy programs in the nation to receive this honor.

The college has hosted camps to inspire those interested in pharmacy, supported the creation of student organizations for Black and Asian students and has worked with pipeline programs to help marginalized students get involved in pharmaceutical sciences. The college provides a holistic admission process, with 42% of its incoming class comprising underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. The college also has the highest percentage of minority students among the top 40 pharmacy schools ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

“Winning another HEED award validates the hard work our faculty, staff and students have put forth to advocate and embrace diversity, inclusion and health equity efforts in our college,” said John Allen, associate dean for diversity inclusion and health equity in the College of Pharmacy. “This work is not a destination but a journey. We must continue to make strides to ensure our college is a welcoming and inclusive place for all and that everyone is valued for the rich diversity added by their presence.”

The event concluded with a solo performance by a UF dancer accompanied by drummers, which soon became a cohesive group ensemble, as attendees joined the dancer and followed her lead. McGriff then made a toast to the university’s DEI work and the contributions of various leaders across campus.

“Cheers to the future of inclusive excellence,” she said. “Salud!”

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