The University of Montevallo’s Stephens College of Business hosted a virtual panel of distinguished alums on July 15 to discuss the important roles diversity, equity and inclusion play in the college’s mission.
Panelists included UM Student Diversity Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Jason Perry, Sociallyin Executive Administrator Claire Quirk, University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business Academic Advisor Jasmine Thomas and Morgan Stanley Certified Financial Planner Liucija Smaizyte Wright, and the discussion was moderated by Dr. Gregory Samuels, UM’s chief diversity officer and associate professor of secondary education.
The panel’s discussion focused on the importance of fostering diversity, equity and inclusion both in college and in the workplace.
Thomas said robust diversity initiatives are especially important in college, because they help create stronger employees and leaders in the professional world.
“It’s important in the academic space in particular,” Thomas said. “You’re trying to develop your social cues as a young adult in college. Diversity is so vital because it helps to make the transition into the career world much easier.”
Diversity initiatives such as the Montevallo Minorities Achieving Dreams of Excellence (M.A.D.E.) program help to build empathy, which can be extremely beneficial for business professionals, Perry said.
“I’m so glad I attended a university that valued diversity and inclusion, because it prepared me to serve a diverse population,” Perry said. “UM is such a close-knit university, it’s easy to connect with everyone and meet new people. Even if you share the same skin color with someone else, your experiences in life have made you who you are.”
Exposure to individuals who come from myriad cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in college was a valuable lesson, Quirk said.
“I’ve found that a lot can come just from listening to others’ stories,” Quirk said. “I try to not let anyone I know live in a bubble, because it’s comfortable and it’s selfish.”
As an international student, Wright said UM’s welcoming environment and commitment to diversity was apparent from the first day she arrived on campus.
“At UM, the professors truly cared about us, and you feel like you belong,” Wright said. “By focusing on inclusion and diversity UM helps its students with critical thinking, cognitive skills and creative thinking because it exposes them to different cultures and different ways of thinking.”