UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On Oct. 6 the Penn State community will come together to kick off an ongoing University-wide initiative that brings students, faculty and staff together to show their commitment to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment — respectful of everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, abilities, background, veteran’s status, political beliefs, and all the ways we differ.
“All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion” will begin with a public event at 7:15 p.m. Oct. 6 in front of Old Main on the University Park campus. The event will include remarks from President Eric Barron and Vice Provost for Educational Equity Marcus Whitehurst, along with music from the Essence of Joy choir; remarks by faculty member Susan Russell and undergraduate student Jin Brooke; and the announcement of a new “All In” Achievement Award to recognize a Penn State student, faculty or staff member who has made a significant contribution to the yearlong celebration and whose life and work embody diversity, inclusion and equity in all of its forms.
The October kick-off event will feature a unique multi-media presentation that will be shown across the front of Old Main and will highlight Penn State’s history, reflect on ways the University can foster dialogue and respect, and ask individuals “Are you all in?” — seeking acknowledgement that diversity, inclusion and equity must continue to be among the core values that drive Penn State’s future. The question also is meant to inspire action by community members to impact the world in positive and enduring ways through the creation of a welcoming and accepting environment.
“I encourage all members of the broader Penn State community to be a part of this."
-- President Eric Barron
“Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of who we are as a University,” Barron said. “This initiative is encouraging all members of the community to reflect on that and ‘Be who you are. Together.’ By learning from and celebrating what each of us brings to the community we will be a stronger University. I know that I learn from students, faculty and staff every day, by hearing their ideas and gaining insights from their perspectives.”
Barron said the “All In” initiative had its start in listening to students about the need to continue to build supportive, welcoming learning environments that make all of our students, faculty and staff feel a part of Penn State.
“I encourage all members of the broader Penn State community to be a part of this,” he said.
The event will be livestreamed (allin.psu.edu/kickoffevent) to all Penn State campuses — including Commonwealth Campuses and the World Campus— so that students, faculty and staff can participate and be “All In at Penn State” regardless of where they are located. Penn Staters also are invited to participate on social media both during the event and throughout the year, using the hashtag #WeAre. The event itself will be featured on the University’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and there will be an official Snapchat geofilter available on the Old Main lawn the evening of the event.
Student Zico Khayat, who has been involved with the initiative, said some might wonder why Penn State is pushing for a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“You might not feel that there is a need to become more inclusive. But you need to attempt to put yourself into the shoes of students who don't feel the love and support that you do or who feel that they don’t own the same freedom as you,” said Khayat, a senior in biological science, who is founder and president of the Penn State Zeta Chapter of Alpha Lambda Mu, a Muslim-interest fraternity and vice president of the Social Justice Coalition. “If that is the case, then it is our duty to step forward and carry the torch. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Life's most persistent and urgent questions is: What are you doing for others?’ or when Muhammad Ali said, ‘The service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.’ Then why can't we as students feel that same need to create a more inclusive environment.
“I hope to see more students taking it upon themselves to learn about someone who is different from them and empower their role as student leaders toward the betterment of humanity. We are here as students for more than just going to classes. College is a unique time and we have the power to do so much more. Will we take that next step?” Khayat asked.
As part of this initiative, the University is launching a microsite, allin.psu.edu, which will also go live on Oct. 6. Along with a video highlighting the challenges students face, the microsite includes questions to foster discussions going forward and a list of facilitators who will be available to lead conversations among students, faculty and staff across the University.
The initiative also includes the announcement next spring of the creation of a permanent “All In at Penn State” tribute to diversity and inclusion — a physical reminder of the significance of both diversity and inclusion.
“‘All In’ acknowledges the broad range and scope of the diversity we hope to reach, and that diversity and inclusion must continue to be among the core values that drive Penn State’s future if we are to fulfill our vision of being a leader in research, learning and engagement that facilitates innovation, embraces diversity and sustainability, and inspires achievements that will have impact and affect the world in positive ways. Penn State wants to remain at the forefront of these important diversity and inclusion initiatives,” said Whitehurst, who is leading the Campus Commemoration Committee that involves a wide spectrum of University groups to select the capstone tribute.
For Jaime Kraky, executive director of the Student Programming Association, “the best part of this initiative is that it will create sustainable change.”
“This is not meant to be a one-time, revolutionary campaign; but rather a long-term, community-wide commitment to evolving and growing into a university that better represents and values its diverse student body, faculty and staff. Because the fact is that if a large portion of the Penn State population feels undervalued and underrepresented they probably are, and that is unacceptable,” said Kraky, an undergraduate with a dual major in health policy administration and biobehavioral health.
“The upcoming ‘All In’ event is acknowledging that there is work to be done in our community, and that the University is committed to decisive action. There is so much positive student energy around these topics and I think the ‘All In’ launch event will maximize that energy,” Kraky said. “I'm excited to see the ways in which the University capitalizes on this passion and drives it toward giving new meaning to what it means to be a Penn Stater. I will be getting involved because this is my University and I am responsible for the way my fellow students feel and how they are treated.”
"I will be getting involved because this is my University and I am responsible for the way my fellow students feel and how they are treated.”
-- Jaime Kraky, student
Events will continue throughout the year, including National Coming Out Week Oct. 10-14; a First Amendment panel discussion Oct. 27 in the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus; Military Appreciation Week Nov. 4-13; Black History Month in February; and more. The “All In” calendar is available online at http://equity.psu.edu/allin-calendar.