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Purdue police wins Catalyst Award

By Brian Wallheimer/Journal & Courier

September 6, 2008 - Despite having only 39 officers, the Purdue University Police Department wanted to make sure those officers are from diverse backgrounds.

For its efforts, the department won the first Catalyst Award from Purdue on Friday. The award was created to honor departments and organizations under the executive vice president and treasurer that promote and enhance diversity on campus.

"When you reflect the community you serve, it puts people at ease," said police Lt. Carol Baunach, one of the leaders of the department's diversity project. "They find that you're a little more empathetic and might understand better where they're coming from."

Baunach said there has been a serious effort to hire highly qualified officers from different backgrounds. The department has been active in many university diversity training sessions, as well as sessions aimed at police.

The department is nearly 13 percent minority and more than 20 percent female.

Morgan Olsen, executive vice president and treasurer, said the idea behind the award is to showcase the university's diversity efforts and hopefully get others to learn from the successful programs.

"We can do a lot more working together," Olsen said. "A real key to this is to identify great practices people have and share them."

Other finalists for the award were: Cultural Nights at Windsor, a program that offered diverse foods and information on different cultures at the dining hall; English Speakers of Other Languages, a program that offers language classes and training to family members of students, faculty and staff at Purdue; and Ultimate Spring Break Challenge, which gets students to give up their spring break to serve a needy population.

Tom Paczolt, a general manager in University Residences, said students have given up their spring breaks the last two years to help rebuild houses in southern Louisiana.

And while they're working, Paczolt said, students gain a real understanding of the cultures and values of people in the area.

"The students pick up a lot about the value people put in life," he said. "They learn the cultures and the values of the communities where they're helping."

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Purdue University honors, rewards diversity efforts  

September 12, 2008 - The Purdue University Police Department won the first annual Catalyst Award on Sept. 5 in recognition of a recruitment program that has rapidly increased the numbers of women and minority officers it employs. 

Morgan R. Olsen, Purdue executive vice president and treasurer, praised the police department for creating a diverse workplace that employs White, Latino, African-American, Native American and Asian officers. He said the department looks like the community in which it works, an important component in community policing. 

The treasurer's area created the $5,000 award to highlight and support innovative and successful diversity efforts on campus, upon recommendation of the Treasurer's Diversity Task Force. 

"We've made every effort to promote a diverse campus for students, staff and business partners," Olsen said at the award ceremony. "We need to harness and tap great ideas. So, when you see a good idea here, feel free to steal it."

The police hiring initiative narrowly edged out six other award finalists for the award. Five of the finalists were initiatives within Purdue's Housing and Food Services, including efforts to teach English to international students and staff; highlighting cultures in the dining courts through the use of food, art and music; and establishing a diversity central team responsible for creating a work environment in which diversity is promoted.

"We house and feed nearly 12,000 students from over 100 countries. Many of these students also work for us," said John A. Sautter, vice president for Housing and Food Services. "We are the embodiment of diversity, and it is something we embrace and promote vigorously."

Olsen created the task force that oversees several diversity initiatives, including providing diversity training for all new employees in departments reporting to the treasurer's office. Nearly 1,900 existing employees have received cultural awareness training. The task force also created a program for Purdue employees who have supervisory responsibilities, "Managing a Diverse Workforce," which was delivered to more than 250 managers last year.

The Executive Vice President and Treasurer Internship Program recruits diverse interns from around the nation to work in various units at Purdue. Purdue has initiated exit interviews for all employees, designed, in large part, to ensure that all have been made to feel welcome at Purdue.

"Diversity is a priority at Purdue," said Brenda Coulson, a Treasurer's Task Force member who directs Housing and Food Services' human resources and cultural programs. "And we can do even more by working together, forming partnerships, and diversifying our recruiting and employment."

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