On Thursday, Nov. 18, the Office of Institutional Diversity hosted its annual Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet at the Frazier Alumni Pavilion. The 2021 guest speaker was author and Emmy Award-winning journalist Elizabeth Vargas.

According to the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Texas Tech website, the purpose behind the banquet is to raise scholarship funds and award people in the Texas Tech and Lubbock community for their inclusive excellence.

Margaret L. Williams, dean of the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business and Fernando Valle, interim department chair for the inaugural Department of Special Education in the College of Education, received the Inclusive Excellence Award. Eddie McBride, retiring president and CEO of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, was the recipient of the Senator Robert L. Duncan Community Champion Award.

“Well, this is a way to celebrate our many individuals who contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, as well as to generate funds for student scholarships,” Cory Powell, director of the Office of Institutional Diversity, said.

Lindsay Boynron, the director of Trio SSS, said the Office of Institutional Diversity aims to create a place where students feel like they belong by providing a variety of programs.

The purpose of the Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet was for the Office of Institutional Diversity to celebrate their own, Carol Sumner, the vice president and chief diversity officer, said.

“This is our main fundraiser for the Division and the Office of Institutional Diversity, and the meaning is to recognize individuals who are not simply saying we support but are leading in various ways,” Sumner said. “We're trying to recognize individuals through the award, that you're doing something that matters and then when we bring folks together, we're able to say you matter in getting another student a chance to come to college.”

Elizabeth Vargas also hosted a question-and-answer session in the Media and Communication building on Nov. 18. During her session, young journalism students learned about what is offered to them in their field.

Emily Swartz, a fourth-year media strategies student from Harlingen, said that is why she attended the Celebrate Diversity Awards Banquet.

“I really liked her backstory, and I found her really inspiring, just like as a woman in journalism,” Swartz said. “You don't see a lot of that and you don't get a lot of representation. So it's really, really cool to see how successful she has been.”

Micheal Gunn, director of the Student Government Association, said it is important for Tech students to attend events like this.

The banquet recognized people who contributed to diversity and brought like-minded people together who are working hard for diversity, Gunn said.

“This gives students the chance to broaden their horizons to actually find out what else is going on and on campus and the community,” Gunn said. “It raises awareness and gives them a chance to engage with them.”

The 2020 banquet was held virtually, and Powell said after all the pandemic, it is awesome to be able to come together and celebrate.

The award recipients for 2020 were recognized at the 2021 banquet. 

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