By Elly Spencer
Baylor’s Campus Diversity Committee is once again supporting unity through differences with its $10,000 Diversity Enhancement Grant.
Individuals or groups can apply for the grant to help fund a project or event that brings together people of all backgrounds, races and religions.
The committee donates up to $1,000 to each applicant that provides the best event ideas for diversity on campus. This does not have to be a new event, or an event created by a student.
“The grant is designed to enhance any programs on campus that are based on diversity in nature,” said committee member Lexi English, Semester Study Abroad Program Coordinator.
Baylor’s effort is in line with a nationwide push from the U.S. Department of Education. The department is investing nearly $96 million in grants to ensure that every college and university student receives an equal opportunity at a degree.
“Ensuring that every student — from the wealthiest to the poorest and historically underserved — has access to a high-quality education is what our work is all about,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a press conference.
Baylor’s Diversity Committee seeks to continue that country-wide effort to uphold the standard of diversity on campus.
“The Baylor family is a unique blend of members representing a wide range of backgrounds,” according to the Diversity Committee’s mission statement. “Each is wonderfully crafted in the image of our Creator, gifted for service here and abroad. Whether student or staff, faculty, administration or alumni, all are important to the mission of Baylor University.”
Baylor holds a medley of students, with a minority student population of 33.9 percent, up from 33.4 percent in 2012, according to the Office of Institutional Research and Testing. In 2013, Baylor was also dubbed the second-most diverse campus in the Big 12, behind the University of Texas at Austin.
In 2013, M. Clayton and Associates named Baylor one of the “88 Best Colleges for African Americans.” Baylor was one of only four Texas universities to be ranked.
Accordingly, committee members vote on a winner to receive the grant based on the ways they intend to involve many different backgrounds.
“We’re looking for something that is open to all of the student body,” English said. “We’re looking for people that are collaborating with others on campus.”
Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media, was one of the 2012 Baylor Diversity Enhancement Award winners. She said the grant creates opportunity on campus.
“This grant allows applicants to put on shows that they normally wouldn’t be able to put on,” she said.
Moody-Ramirez is an advisor for the on-campus group Diverse Verses, a spoken word and poetry organization. Diverse Verses is a previous recipient of the grant.
“The grant really allowed the group to expand on their event,” Moody-Ramirez said. “They were able to invite top artists that they wouldn’t have been able to without the grant.”
Besides the factor of inclusion, the committee also votes based on the applicants’ budgets, locations, logistics and creativity.
Rosalie Barrera, a senior lecturer in the Spanish department, said contemplating on the purpose of the event is critical to the process.
“I would advise students to think about the broad impact of the event for which they’re seeking funding,” Barrera said.
Barrera has applied numerous times for the grant and assisted other applicants with the grant, focusing on the department of languages and cultures and the Global Community Living-Learning Center.
Multiple groups Barrera has assisted have won over $6,000 to put toward an international dance party for International Education Week, Global BU Vision and activities for Christmas on Fifth Street.
“The programming we have had the privilege of putting on for the Baylor community would not have been possible without the financial support of the Diversity Committee,” Barrera said.
In the future, the committee would like to see growth and expansion on the amount of money allocated to them to give to applicants, English said.
“We always want to be able to help fund additional events,” English said. “The goal is to enrich the cultures and minorities existing on this campus.”
To find an application for the grant or to learn more about the opportunity, visit their website www.baylor.edu/diversity/index.php?id=72055.