“At UCF We Bring Respect” was the T-shirt message shared Wednesday at the university’s first Rally for Respect, a kickoff event for the 21st annual Diversity Week on Oct. 12-16. The activities are in support of an initiative to promote awareness about diversity and differences and will start the yearlong RESPECT UCF awareness campaign this fall.

The rally was held at the Reflecting Pond, where Karen Morrison, chief diversity officer in UCF’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, thanked students and faculty for coming out to support the efforts of campus diversity.

President John C. Hitt told the crowd that UCF’s total minority enrollment is at a school record of 45 percent, with both student and staff diversity representing all 50 states and 150 countries.

Students Jessica Momrie and Swaran Nandini spoke about their positive experiences at UCF, which included open-minded staff, faculty and students, and they challenged students to remain conscious of each other’s differences and to include one another.

“What really makes us all diverse is something that cannot be seen,” Momrie said. “Diversity is more than a variety of ethnic backgrounds or the color of skin. Diversity encompasses an individual’s belief, sexuality, interest, culture, and so much more…Let’s do our part to continue this legacy by being ourselves together. Do the knight thing and be respectful.”

Keynote speaker Carolyn Walker Hopp, a lecturer in the College of Education and Human Performance, said now is a unique time of innovation and opportunity available to students, staff and faculty at UCF.

When she was growing up in the segregated South, she said she had the opportunity to hear this motivating advice from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while she was in college: “Persevere and remember that your education and intellectual pursuits should always sustain and guide your thinking.”

Hopp said we are once again in a crucial time, “a time where the ideas of normalcy are challenged once again. The whole world is braced for change.”

Viama Menos, a health science major, appreciated the positive message.

“I feel as students of this university it is a time that we all have to come together,” she said.

Other Diversity Week initiatives include:

  • Honors luncheon with film instructor Jay Boyar: Superheroes with Disabilities, presented by the Burnett Honors College, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Burnett Honors College, Room 130.
  • COHPA diversity luncheon, presented by the College of Health and Public Affairs, with its main theme including religions and worldviews, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 14 in the HPA 1 Atrium. The program will be open to students after 12:30 p.m.
  • Interfaith forum, featuring the Three Wise Guys: Free Speech & Religion, presented by Global Perspectives, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15 in the Student Union Key West Ballroom. Advanced registration is required through global@ucf.edu.
  • Students in the College of Business’ DeVos Sport Business Management Program are spreading awareness on how sports organizations can improve racial and gender hiring practices.
  • Visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website for a full schedule of the week’s events.