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U of U Residence Halls Association Honored with National Commitment to Diversity Award

July 12, 2005 — The National Association of College and University Residence Halls (NACURH) recently awarded the University of Utah’s Residence Hall Association (RHA) the “National Commitment to Diversity Award.”

The honor, announced at an association conference in Syracuse, New York, goes to a school that demonstrates a student-directed, yearlong and campus-wide commitment to awareness and the education of residential students concerning diversity and diversity issues, notes Brett Phillips, NACURH chairperson. “The Commitment to Diversity, created in 1998, is one of the bigger awards a school can receive.” The University was chosen from among 387 student-run NACURH chapters, including small and large, public and private and ivy-league institutions from across the nation.

The U’s bid, prepared by students and titled “Building a Path to Acceptance,” stressed the importance of diversity education, especially considering the change in Utah’s, Salt Lake County’s, the University’s and the U’s Residence Halls’ demographics. The 43-page document noted that campus diversity initiatives were implemented to provide “inclusive opportunities for all individuals to learn from” to create a “more accepting and safe community for all residents.”

The bid also noted that this year diversity initiatives and programming attempted to increase awareness and visibility of minority groups and their concerns and to explain how the educational experience is greatly enriched through the inclusion of a diverse student population. Initiatives also provided resources such as mentorship, counseling, program study and scholarships for students and the creation of campus coalitions and resources for allies. The goal was to create a thriving community that fosters connections for students, faculty and staff.

Efforts on campus to enhance diversity include special scholarships and programs run through the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs, the Women’s Resource Center, the International Center, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center and the Center for Disability Services. In addition, numerous student, religious and residence halls groups host and sponsor diversity events. Annual campus events, such as Days of Remembrance, Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, Women’s Week and the Annual American Indian Awareness Week underscore the importance of diversity.

“Recognition of the U’s residential program and of our student leader’s efforts by NACURH honors the overall talent and dedication of our residential population,” says Barb Remsburg, associate director of Residential Living at the U…

University student Nicola Saliendra, a senior math student and U presidential intern, received the NACURH “National Student of the Year” award at the New York conference. Saliendra, the U’s RHA vice president for the past academic year, was, according to Remsburg, “integral in the success of the Commitment to Diversity bid.” Saliendra was also recognized for her presentation of “Creating an RHA Family,” one of the top 44 (out of 420) conference workshops.

“With the entering, out-of-state population and the international students the Residence Halls holds much of the campus diversity,” notes Saliendra. “There is a wide array of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientations. As Residence Hall leaders we found programming and educational avenues for students to be themselves, where they could find common understanding, where students were allowed to have their own truths, to listen to others’ stories and to accept them.”

Another University student, Jon Hayes, received the “First Year Experience” regional Intermountain Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls (IACURH) award from among 45 colleges and universities in the region to which the University belongs. U student Melissa Prentice received the IACURH “On Campus Marketing National Communications Coordinator” (OCM NCC) award.

In addition to past regional residence hall honors, the University was named the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) “Building Block Chapter of the Year” for the 2002-2003 academic year.