Collaborations between Lawrence University and local organizations to create a more just, equitable and inclusive community in which to live, work and learn will be celebrated Thursday, Feb. 8 at the college’s ninth annual Report to the Community. The program begins at 4 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center.
The report will underscore ways in which Lawrence engages in mutually beneficial partnerships to enhance the well-being and vibrancy of the greater Fox Valley while also strengthening the educational experience it provides its students. Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Lawrence, will be the keynote speaker. More than 150 civic and community leaders are expected to attend.
“One of the important things we’re seeing nationally as well as in our own community, is a need to understand how do we create communities where everyone feels like they are a part, they belong and that they can contribute,” said Barrett. “We’ve been active on many fronts to make sure that’s the case. With the business community, it’s looking at talent attraction and retention. With schools, its looking at diversity issues, inclusion, reducing bullying and harassment, which unfortunately we saw an uptick in right around the election with all of the polarized political rhetoric. With community members, we want to make sure we have a place that is welcoming and where everyone can get what they need to thrive.
“We’ve seen positive movement in this area and Lawrence has been a part of a lot of it,” Barrett added. “We want to celebrate those efforts and the ways we are engaged in mutually beneficial partnerships as we present our annual report to the community.”
Highlighting the program will be the presentation of the eighth annual Lawrence University Collaboration in Action Award by Lawrence President Mark Burstein to three local organizations: ThedaCare’s Community Health Action Team (CHAT); The Fox Cities Diversity Officers Collaborative; and The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
The award recognizes an individual or organization, who, in partnership with Lawrence, has provided exemplary service to the Fox Cities community through strategic vision, leadership influence, long-standing commitment and enthusiasm, financial contributions and/or volunteerism.
Beyond its role as a regional leader in healthcare, ThedaCare, through its CHAT initiative, has launched a series it calls “the plunge,” innovative, collaborative community projects that lead to change. Since 2001, CHAT has conducted plunges on various issues that impact community health, including affordable housing, understanding the LGBTQ population, childhood obesity, diversity, mental health, poverty, the Voices of Men program and the issue of being black in the Fox Cities, among others.
“Our faculty and staff have been involved with the plunges in a number of ways, providing expertise, being a part of some of the focus groups or the organizing groups,” said Barrett, who is a new member of the group. “I’m particularly interested, given my role at Lawrence, in the way that CHAT meets the needs of a variety of different diverse communities in the Appleton area.”
“We all have a role to play in creating the kind of community that we want to be a part of, a just community, an equitable community, an inclusive community.”
— Kimberly Barrett
One of the programs Lawrence is particularly involved with is an offshoot of the CHAT plunges that is looking at helping reduce the “opportunity gap” — the difference in graduation rates in high school and college attendance rates for African American students in the Appleton schools.
“We’re proud to be collaborating with and honoring the work of the ThedaCare community health action teams,” said Barrett.
The Fox Cities Diversity Officers Collaborative features nearly two dozen leaders from business and industry, municipalities, schools and local non-profit organizations. Formed in early 2017, collaborative members meet quarterly to discuss issues relating to recruiting, retaining people within the various organizations and providing the education needed to create the kind of inclusive climate they hope to have in each organization.
The collaborative grew out of Barrett’s own desire to create a network to support people who are engaged locally in diversity and inclusion work after she joined the Lawrence administration in the summer of 2016.
“We share best practices. We share problems and work through them together,” said Barrett, who hosted the collaborative’s first meeting. “It’s really a brain-trust for those of us who are engaged in this work.”
The Performing Arts Center is being recognized for its efforts to enhance the arts’ relationship to social justice, diversity and inclusion. One example was its work with the Seattle-based Spectrum Dance Theater last February. Lawrence partnered with the PAC in planning the arts group local residency and coordinating some of its curricular activities while they were here, including speaking with members of Lawrence’s dance team, a performance at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel that focused on using the arts to encourage conversations about race and a community conversation at the Trout Museum of Art, of which Barrett was a panelist.
“The Spectrum Dance Theater residency really spoke to the issue of how do we look at creating a community in which everyone feels like they belong, how we can talk to each other across our differences and try to empathize and understand the perspectives of others,” said Barrett.
One new element of this year’s report to the community will be table conversations among the attendees facilitated by Barrett.
“Our annual report is an opportunity for us not only to share with the community how we’ve been engaged with the community, but it’s also an opportunity for us to get feedback from the community about the ways we can be even more effectively engaged,” said Barrett. “Given the theme is equity and inclusion, we’re going to ask people for input about how Lawrence can expand its role as a thought leader on these issues.
“We all have a role to play in creating the kind of community that we want to be a part of, a just community, an equitable community, an inclusive community,” Barrett added. “We’re sharing some ways in which we and community partners have started to engage in this work. While much work remains to be done, we’re taking this opportunity to acknowledge our progress.”
Past recipients of Lawrence’s Collaboration in Action Award include the Community Early Learning Center (2016), Mile of Music (2015), Riverview Gardens (2014), Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Cities (2013), the Appleton Area School District (2012), the YMCA of the Fox Cities (2011) and the Mielke Family Foundation (2010).
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.