When S. Kent Butler started the Matters of Diversity with Dr. B podcast, he didn’t have a technical understanding of how to create a podcast. He only knew he wanted to address the concern he kept hearing: UCF community members didn’t always know what their fellow colleagues and students were up to.
“I didn’t know anything about podcasts, but I wanted to do something to show that we’re a community, and that we all work together.”
— S. Kent Butler
“People wanted more transparency,” says Butler, UCF’s interim chief equity, inclusion and diversity officer. “I made a conscious effort to think about how to reach out. … I didn’t know anything about podcasts, but I wanted to do something to show that we’re a community, and that we all work together.”
Now in its second semester of recording, Matters of Diversity with Dr. B has recorded 25 episodes. Guests have ranged from President Alexander Cartwright and Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Services Maribeth Ehasz to student leaders from an array of campus organizations.
For every aspect, Butler has worked with the community to bring the podcast to life. The intro music was created by Assistant Professor of Music Alexander Burtzos, specifically for the show. And for each episode, Butler works with Kavita Sawh ’13, coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and student interns to identify guests and produce each recording. Isabella Marchetta, a journalism major, and Azon Bonifacio, an advertising and public relations major served as interns last semester, and Bonifacio will continue this semester.
“I believe that we can learn so much from just talking to each other,” he says. “That’s really the thing that I want people to see. We can have all of these differences and still be connected, and that’s it.”
Episodes are available to watch live on YouTube every Wednesday and Friday. We sat down with Dr. Butler to learn more about the podcast.
Laura J. Cole: With Martin Luther King Jr. Day happening next week, what do you think is MLK’s legacy and how does it inform the work you do, specifically this podcast?
Kent Butler: All my life I’ve been a person who has tried to be a unifier. To see people for who they are and to allow that to inform whether they should be in my life or not. As I started doing multicultural work — which I’ve been doing for a long time now — it was really about bridging the gaps that we have in our lives.
“All my life I’ve been a person who has tried to be a unifier.”
My background in counseling speaks to the fact that when people are connected, then you learn to see past stereotypes. That’s been my modus operandi: to get people to connect and to communicate. We don’t always do that. But we need to have difficult dialogues. We have to communicate. We can’t run away from those things that are happening in the world and act as if we can just brush it under the rug and everything will be okay. We have to be able to talk about it.
At UCF, we’re connected through all these different things, but unless you and I have a conversation, we won’t find out what they are and what we both might like. That’s what I would like to break away from.
All of this is a part of what culminates into what King talked about during his “I Have a Dream” speech.
LJC: How do you plan to grow the show and your audience?
KB: My hope, when I first started thinking about what I wanted to bring to this campus, and what I’m still hoping to do is start a series that’s like a TED Talk where people can come and talk about what they’re doing for 15 to 20 minutes.
“It just doesn’t make sense for us to be on a campus with all this talent and not know what each other are doing.”
I’d love to find an auditorium on campus where we can do that and film them and have them be out on YouTube. What greater way of finding out what somebody is doing in chemistry and what somebody doing in biology or engineering, business, than to hear them tell their story? Right now, it’s called Diversity Talks in my head. We’ll see if it pans out, but we’re looking for donors and people who are excited about it.
It just doesn’t make sense for us to be on a campus with all this talent and not know what each other are doing.
LJC: You’ve recorded 25 episodes so far. What has been your favorite moment and what have you learned?
KB: Each of the shows have been impactful because I’ve learned stuff from each of them.
I talked with the folks from Hillel a couple of weeks ago about Hanukkah and the conversation blossomed into so much more. Now we’re talking about study abroad trips to Israel. Those are the types of outcomes that are exciting about doing the podcast. You open the door to things that you may not have ever considered otherwise.
In my position as the diversity officer, I am able to bring to the community these different voices. That has been the thing that I’m most proud of. It’s not about the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It’s not about me. It’s really about getting these voices out there and having people share their narratives.
“I wanted to be transparent about who we are as a university, what we do, and celebrate that to the best of our ability, and to provide information.”
I think probably the one I’ll hold on to the most is the one with [President] Alexander Cartwright. He was my very first guest and I learned a lot about who he was and his story in terms of growing up in the Bahamas, getting his GED and then going on to become the president of a university. Those are the types of stories and things that I think come organically through having these conversations.
LJC: In many of the podcasts, the conversations aren’t focused on topics of diversity, so why the name Matters of Diversity with Dr. B?
KB: First of all, it was a play on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. That was one part of it. But I wanted people to know that there is something to be said about the fact that we have different intersectionalities, all of us. We’re interconnected in so many different ways. I wanted to have that be the emphasis behind it. I wanted to be transparent about who we are as a university, what we do, and celebrate that to the best of our ability, and to provide information.
For example, I recently hosted Dr. [Michael] Deichen, [associate vice president for Student Health Services], to talk about what we’re dealing with with this pandemic and how we’re going to be dealing with this as a university. What safety measures does he say or suggest that we need to put into place? Those are the types of things that I was hopeful that this podcast could represent and be about.
I’ve also brought in experts who aren’t from UCF, such as a very good friend of mine, Naomi Tutu, to discuss issues related to diversity and inclusion from her perspective.
But I also want to bring in people like Mayor [Buddy] Dyer and other Central Florida community leaders, so we can have a conversation about what they’re doing and how UCF impacts their work. It’s really going to be showing our diversity in terms of who we are as a university, not so much about race, but more about culture.
LJC: What is your hope for 2021?
KB: We cocoon ourselves into our places of safety, but I hope that we can explore beyond that and get to know people and welcome them into our safe places with us.
“Be willing to unlearn some of the lessons that have been taught to you that are false, that prevent you from meeting the people who could really enrich your life.”
For example, people say, “I have an Asian friend,” or, “I have a Black friend.” The thing I want to know then is do they come to your home? You say you have friends, but is that somebody you just go out and meet for coffee, but then you go your separate ways? How intimate are you with the people that you say are your friends? Are they as intimate with you as your best friend who might look like you or come from the same ethnic background as you? How do we open the door up for people to connect and allow themselves to embrace people and the beauty that’s around them?
Leave your selfish interior behind and let the world feed you. Be willing to unlearn some of the lessons that have been taught to you that are false, that prevent you from meeting the people who could really enrich your life.
Some people will say that’s idealistic or what have you, but it’s worked in my life to focus on the good in the world — and I hope others allow that for themselves.