Award recognizes Purdue diversity initiative

August 3, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University has received a SunGard Higher Education Innovation Award for a diversity initiative led by Housing and Food Services and the Office of the Vice President of Human Resources.

The award is given by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) and recognizes innovation in human resources. CUPA-HR will contribute  $3,000 for an endowment or scholarship at Purdue.

Purdue received the award for its Promoting Unity Through Diversity program. Begun in fall 2004, the Office of the Vice President of Human Resources and Housing and Foods Services developed initiatives in recruitment, cultural awareness, leadership groups and retention.

"The VPHR-HFS team provides a positive and lasting impact on the university through its innovative diversity programs," said Luis Lewin, vice president of human resources. "The Unity Through Diversity model has been recognized across campus, and requests for their programs have been received from both academic and administrative departments. Through their leadership, we have experienced a positive increase in both diverse hires and retention of underrepresented groups."

To begin, a diversity work group assessed the culture within Housing and Food Services through surveys. One result of the assessment was the creation of the University Residences Central Diversity Team - a proactive team of service and clerical workers who take ownership of and incorporate diversity initiatives into their workplaces.

Through the ongoing program, supervisors and recruiters attend job fairs targeted toward underrepresented groups and develop relationships with local minority organizations to promote Purdue as a workplace of choice, said Brenda Coulson, director of talent acquisition in the Office of Vice President for Human Resources.

Once hired, all new HFS employees go through diversity training. The ProActors - facilitators from director to clerical levels trained in interactive theater techniques - are utilized to bring new life to diversity workshop topics. Workplace programs offering improvement on English and Spanish language skills, as well as naturalization assistance, are offered. Cultural nights in the dining courts are held throughout the academic year in an effort to bring greater awareness for students and staff of the foods and traditions of various cultures that are part of the Purdue community.

"Our talented team has done exceptional work in carrying a message of diversity and inclusion throughout our organization," said Beth McCuskey, associate vice president for Housing and Food Services. "I am extremely proud of their efforts and achievements and look forward to future initiatives, which promise to introduce new and creative ways for enhancing diversity."

The award will be presented to Purdue representatives in September at the 2011 CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo in Orlando.
Writer: Greg McClure, 765-496-9711,

Sources: Brenda Coulson, 765-494-0603,
                 Luis Lewin, 765-494-7395, 
                 Beth McCuskey, 765-494-1022,