For Donna Swinney, BSCC diversity award means ‘Mission Accomplished’
(Reprinted with permission from Journal Record)
HAMILTON - “She supports us in our efforts to celebrate the ways that are uniquely ours.”
“She coordinates numerous activities for these students to give them educational and cultural opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.”
“Donna firmly embraces diversity and models this behavior for students and her peers. Donna seems to understand the meaning of diversity and embraces the differences among individuals.”
These are just snippets of kudos from letters heralding Donna Swinney’s work at Bevill State Community College-Hamilton as director of the Upward Bound program.
Diversity, uniqueness. Swinney deals with these traits every day through her Upward Bound students. Those same traits were what earned her special recognition recently when she was named the recipient of the college-wide Diversity Excellence Award.
The presentation was made during a reception held on the BSCC-Jasper campus before family, friends, and her Bevill State colleagues. According to a release explaining the Diversity Excellence Award, “Diversity at Bevill State is an organizational culture in which people’s differences are valued and respected and where opportunities, policies, and practices are applied fairly and equitably to all.
“Diversity involves differences in gender, race, age, education, socioeconomic status, culture, working techniques, life style, religious beliefs, political beliefs, geographical location, physical ability/quality, and ideology--the specifics of which define every individual.
“Diversity is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.”
Swinney, the college’s Diversity Committee decided, demonstrated “the highest commitment to enhancing collegiate excellence through diversity.”
“I was so surprised and very honored,” Swinney said. As director of Upward Bound, Swinney and her staff serve high school students from low-income families who have mental abilities to succeed in college; and high school students who will be the first generation in the family to attend college.
Part of the nomination process included obtaining support letters from fellow employees, students, or community members.
The letters written on Swinney’s behalf gushed with accolades, praise, and heartfelt sentiment regarding Swinney, as both a person and the director of the Upward Bound program.
One of her students, Sulligent High School Upward Bound participant Kierra Thompson, wrote, “She is an unselfish person who constantly seems to be working for the student’s benefit. She is a very positive person. I like to call her an equal opportunity encourager.”
She concluded, “I will assure you that no one deserves it (the award) more,” a sentiment shared by all the letter writers.
Beth Roberts, the director of Student Services on the Hamilton campus, wrote, “She is devoted to diversity awareness on this campus and in our community. As Upward Bound director, Mrs. Swinney has the opportunity to recruit underrepresented populations to our college, as she works with high school students from a variety of backgrounds. She coordinates numerous activities for these students to give them educational and cultural opportunities that they would not have had otherwise.”
Susan Burrow, the Hamilton campus’ dean and dean of academic transfer programs, is the person who Swinney not only considers her boss but also her mentor. Burrow was lavish in her praise of Swinney.
“Donna recently said, ‘If students learn to embrace their differences, they will carry this on throughout generations.’” Continuing, Burrow wrote, “...it has been my privilege to witness firsthand the many contributions that Donna makes with the Upward Bound students, our campus, and the community we serve. She works to cultivate an environment where everyone appreciates and embraces diversity. Donna conceptualizes and delivers excellent Upward Bound educational and cultural field trips and monthly seminars in which students are encouraged to explore their differences and are offered opportunities to broaden their exposure to a diverse world.”
Concluding her support letter, Burrow wrote, “After reviewing the criteria for the Diversity Excellence Award, I am confident that Donna Swinney is the person Bevill State Community College should recognize as the Diversity Excellence Award recipient. The Bevill State Diversity Plan is designed to promote an inclusive learning environment that fosters respect and appreciation for our similarities and differences. I have observed this through Donna’s work here on the Hamilton campus.”
Though naturally appreciative and honored to receive this award, Swinney sees this recognition as simply another way to recruit students for Upward Bound. She will quickly tell you she loves her job, believes working with Upward Bound students is what she was meant to do, and looks forward to meeting the challenges the program often presents.
Swinney concluded, “America is a melting pot of diversity. As an advocate of this belief, I have always encouraged my students to be proud of their heritage and to share their diverse backgrounds, skills and talents for the good of the group. Every time I look up at my Diversity Award displayed proudly in my office, I smile and think ‘Mission Accomplished.’”
She is always open to sharing information about BSCC-Hamilton’s Upward Bound program, and she can be contacted at 921-3177 or 1-800-648-3271, ext. 5309, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.