MOSAIIC Challenges the Notion of the Underdog

Bluegrass Community & Technical College (BCTC) Office of Multiculturalism and Inclusion hosted its annual Multicultural Opportunities, Strategies & Institutional Inclusiveness Conference (MOSAIIC), Thursday and Friday, November 29 -30 at the Griffin Gate Marriott Hotel. This year's theme Doomed to Succeed: The Impetus of the Underdog captivated audiences as educators, students and community members discussed how the adversities of life can be motivating factors for many to live successful lives.

Dr. Belle Wheelan, Charlene Walker, Dr. Augusta A. Julian

The keynote speakers at the conference were Hasan Davis, commissioner, Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice and Dr. Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Davis, who overcame various societal barriers as a child humorously, but profoundly, challenged anyone who finds themselves in a tough situation to do two things: figure out why you're there and figure out what you can do to make it better.

Wheelan, who raised her son as a single mother, reminded the audience that while those students who attend selective admission colleges are successful despite the faculty and staff, the students who come to us [community colleges] are successful because of the faculty and staff.

Even though technology has changed the way students learn, it hasn't changed the way they feel about it. We must understand the circumstances from where students come, empathize with them and work to find ways to help them apply what they are learning, Wheelan said.

The opening session, led by Mark Johnson, Health Equity Team Leader, Fayette County Health Department sparked emotional and sometimes heated conversations during several audience participation games aimed at drawing out the prejudices that reside in all of us.

"We are all prejudice we all pre-judge and have our own biases," Johnson said. Meaning that despite what we say, we all carry around schemas that cause us to interact and react in ways that can be hurtful and discriminatory.

Johnson presented a message that one should look beyond the external characteristics like race, sexual orientation, age and gender and get to know an individual for their true character. He challenged the audience to consider that worth is not determined by whether one is straight or gay, African American or Caucasian, poor or rich, but by what you choose to do with the life you are given.

During the panel discussions, audience members were given inspirational and heart-wrenching glimpses into the lives of men and women who overcame great odds and prejudices which propelled them to succeed.

The student panel was comprised of young adults who overcame staggering adversities and obstacles to become successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, authors and advocates in their communities.

Representatives from the I Am Diversity Project, Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, Gateway Community & Technical College, Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky also presented during the conference.

The conference creator, Charlene Walker, VP of Multiculturalism & Inclusion at BCTC, hopes the conference will open everyone's eyes to the diversity issues that America continues to face. Her mantra this year, I see that what troubles me has no impact on you, but I'm going to keep doing what I do until it troubles you too, is a resounding admonishment for everyone to not let things fester or merely sit by and watch, but when faced with discrimination, prejudice, or injustice to speak out against it and keep doing so until others take up the charge along with you.

Each year faculty, staff, students and community members are selected to receive the MOSAIIC award for their proven commitment to diversity. This years recipients were:

  • Mr. Samuel Giles, Teacher, Henry Clay High School
  • Dr. Jim Fenton, Associate Professor, BCTC
  • Mr. Elmer Keith Whitaker, CEO, Whitaker Bank
  • Merlene Davis, Lexington Herald-Leader Columnist (accepting her award from 2011)