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Samuels leads University’s diversity, inclusion efforts

By Emily Reed

After being named UM’s chief diversity and inclusion officer in 2020, Dr. Gregory Samuels has spent much of his time working to promote an all-inclusive campus environment.

“My goals center around having a campus that strengthens, advances and sustains increased diversity, equity and inclusion and actively promotes social justice,” Samuels said.

Samuels serves as an associate professor of elementary and secondary education in the College of Education & Human Development and is on the faculty for UM’s African American studies minor and peace and justice studies minor.

He transitioned into the role of chief diversity and inclusion officer for 2020-2022 in August 2020. This experience provides a strong foundation for his work advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion in academic programs at the University.

“I did my best to hit the ground running,” said Samuels, who was the 2019-2020 University Scholar. “Early in fall 2020, I collaborated with Dr. Courtney Bentley, dean of the College of Education & Human Development, and Dr. Amy Samuels, a colleague in the instructional leadership program, to co-facilitate a two-day diversity workshop for teachers and administrators in Alabaster City Schools. I also collaborated with faculty who were actively involved in the strategic planning process to promote the infusion of diversity efforts.”

In his work with the UM Black Heritage Committee, Samuels was instrumental in establishing the annual UM Black Heritage Lecture Series and naming it in honor of Dr. Wilson Fallin Jr. Fallin is a professor emeritus of history in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences who has been a consistent and fearless supporter of numerous efforts in the area of civil rights and social justice over the past several decades.

Additionally, Samuels said he has spent time surveying faculty at UM to assess their perceptions and views on campus climate related to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice and designed a related professional development session that explored topics related to critical consciousness, implicit biases and efforts to promote increased equity.

Samuels has also spent time collaborating with Regional In-Service Director Brooke Veazey to facilitate a three-day diversity training with teachers and administrators in area public schools. UM’s Regional In-Service Education Center in Pelham provides professional development for educators in 13 local school systems.

While almost every higher education institution in the nation has an office of diversity and inclusion and a chief diversity officer, Samuels said Montevallo is unique because of the freedom and flexibility it provides to fulfill University goals and objectives.

Samuels hopes to see the program continue to grow and develop to support the changing needs of the students and community.

“I see the M.A.D.E. (Minorities Achieving Dreams of Excellence) program continuing to expand to further support minority students and to provide an encouraging environment where students can overcome barriers, connect with peers and faculty and staff who are committed to their success and flourish in their studies,” Samuels said. “I also see continued growth of academic programs that directly support studies related to diversity, equity and inclusion, such as the African American studies minor, which offers students the opportunity to acquire a greater understanding of our history, cultural development and social implications of experiences, policies and events on Black Americans.”