The University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information held its fifth annual Experience Diversity Banquet on Friday, Feb. 22 at Bearden Banquet Hall in Knoxville.
The keynote speaker and recipient of the 2013 CCI Diversity Award was Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. Rogero, Knoxville’s first female mayor, has already taken several steps to enhance the city’s inclusiveness. Since being sworn into office, she has worked to expand the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance and broadened the diversity of the city’s contractors and vendors. She has also made diversity a hallmark of her administration and carried through on her commitment to diversity through the staff hires she has made.
As part of her keynote address, Rogero encouraged attendees to “bloom where you are planted” by taking advantage of opportunities to expand their horizons by focusing on the options at hand. She also chronicled the history of her family members in America and the discrimination they endured. Her inspirational story captivated the audience which included past CCI Diversity Award recipient Theotis Robinson, Jr.
Rogero worked in the ‘70s with Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers to seek better pay for migrant farm workers. After moving to Knoxville, she was elected to the Knox County Commission in 1990 and served as head of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation. Later she was executive director of Knoxville’s Promise – Alliance for Youth.
Rogero holds a degree in political science from Furman University and a master’s degree from UT’s Graduate School of Planning.
The Experience Diversity Banquet is an annual fund raising event for CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS). Alice Bowling Wirth is the director of the student group and guides the planning and production of the banquet.
“The students plan and publicize the event each year,” said Wirth. “They work hard to raise the funds which are used to support programs and initiatives to enhance diversity and inclusion educational opportunities and experiences throughout the year.”
In addition to the opening student skit, several performers from a broad range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds provided dance and musical entertainment for attendees.
Silent auction bids and proceeds from table sponsorships accounted for most of the funds raised. Several businesses and individuals provided auction items and elaborate decorations for the elegant event. See the attached program for a listing of those contributing to the success of the event (2013 Experience Diversity Banquet Program).