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University praised by higher ed’s largest diversity publication

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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is drawing attention for providing “programs that level the playing field for educational opportunities.”

That’s according to INSIGHT into Diversity, the largest diversity magazine and website in higher education. The publication assesses colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada for contributions in advancing diversity and inclusion. It featured UL Lafayette’s Learning is for Everyone, or LIFE program, and its Courageous Conversations workshop series in the May/June issue.

The UL LIFE program gives students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities an academic foundation, work experience and social opportunities. Students enroll in classes designed specifically for them, and audit regularly scheduled classes with other University students, who help with assignments.

Courageous Conversations is a workshop series that focuses on increasing diversity and inclusion in the classroom, across campus and in the community. Faculty, staff members and students gather monthly to share experiences, ideas and resources.

“Recognition for these two programs that are integral to the University’s diversity and inclusion efforts are indicative of a campus-wide commitment to providing equal access for underrepresented groups,” said Dr. Taniecea Arceneaux Mallery, the University’s executive director of Strategic Initiatives and chief diversity officer.

The UL LIFE program began in 2014, when UL Lafayette became the state’s first four-year institution to offer a postsecondary program for people with intellectual disabilities.

Students enrolled in the program have curriculums tailored to their interests and career goals. They learn “life skills” such as how to manage finances, and hold internships in campus offices or departments. They also participate in student organizations, clubs and extracurricular activities.

“The blend of academic, social and career development is designed to help LIFE students develop skills and confidence that will enable them to find meaningful jobs, and live independently,” Mallery said.

INSIGHT into Diversity’s acknowledgement of the Courageous Conversations series centered on a recent virtual session seen by more than 100 educators from across the state. A group of panelists addressed a range of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic such as physical and mental wellness, and challenges faced by minority students who lack access to technology.

“The idea of the webinar was to be intentional and think about certain experiences many of our students are having, because not everyone is experiencing this crisis in the same way or dealing with the same circumstances,” Mallery said.

This isn’t the first time UL Lafayette has earned praise from INSIGHT into Diversity magazine. Last year, the University was among 93 institutions that received the magazine’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. It also was recognized with the HEED award in 2018.

Mallery said the recognition is, in large part, the result of a Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence created by the Office for Campus Diversity. It outlines a comprehensive plan for expanding initiatives and professional development resources that advance equity and inclusion.

“We want to continue to develop policies, resources and initiatives that engage all segments of campus and the community in the University's ongoing mission to increase opportunities for underrepresented students,” Mallery said.

Read the May/June 2020 issue of INSIGHT into Diversity magazine and view the Courageous Conversations virtual webinar.

Photo caption: The UL LIFE program provides students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities an academic foundation, work experience and social opportunities with other students. Students enrolled in the program take classes tailored to their interests and career goals, participate in student organizations and activities, and hold internships on campus. Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette