Changing Clemson: Altheia Richardson promoting diversity through opportunities, conversations
By Julia Turner, Class of 2014
Office of Media Relations
Altheia Richardson has seen a lot of change in her 22 years at Clemson. And one of her biggest priorities is promoting diversity among the university’s student population.
Toward that end, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs has advocated for programs that support underserved populations, eventually merging the university’s Intercultural Center with the Center for Student Involvement to create the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Center for Student Life. Among other offerings, the center promotes community service, leadership learning, diversity education and multicultural programs.
Out of research comes action
Richardson’s research, now focused on the university’s campus climate survey, is creating more opportunities for students to learn from each other, talk across differences and to give the students opportunities to have important conversations with faculty and staff.
“The exciting thing about presenting the 2012 results is that the Provost charged the chief diversity officer with developing the campus climate task force, which is looking into issues not just for our students, but also the faculty and staff,” Richardson said.
Her research will continue to help find ways to ensure Clemson’s students feel included and welcomed by all. “I’m excited that we created this task force, it shows we have made this a high level of importance.”
Diversity impacts everyone
As a whole, Richardson reminds the institution that it’s everyone’s job to make sure the climate is inclusive. “Creating that inclusive and welcoming climate is everybody’s responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘Well, we have a chief diversity officer, or we have the Gantt Center for Student Life, and that’s their job,’ but we can’t be everywhere. It’s all of our jobs. We need to take ownership that we all have a role in creating a good environment on campus. We should be mindful of where we need to focus more efforts, and ask ‘What can I do about this?’”
Faculty, especially, can create opportunities for students to engage in intergroup dialogue around diverse subject matter. “But we need to make sure to create a safe environment for students to engage in open and honest dialog in a way that they feel respected and included in the process,” said Richardson. “There are also a number of missed opportunities outside the classroom as well for this level of dialogue among diverse populations.”
“In student affairs we say that everyone has the potential to positively impact the world, and we really want every graduate to go out and change the world. This way we can show everyone that Clemson supplied them with all the resources and opportunities they needed to do just that. It behooves all of us — faculty, staff and students — to make sure that our graduates can make a difference. It truly is a team effort.”