UT Alumnus encourages diversity at trailblazer series

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The Office of Diversity and Inclusion celebrated the 40th anniversary of its semi-annual Trailblazer series on Wednesday. The series is dedicated to recognizing and honoring the accomplishments of African Americans.

Keynote speaker Don Frieson, a UT alumnus and executive vice president of operations at Sam’s Club, told listeners to embrace diversity while speaking in the College of Communication & Information Scripps Lab.

Courtesy of Camille Gear
Keynote speaker Don Frieson speaking at the Trailblazer series// Courtesy of Camille Gear

Frieson believes that people are too quick to focus on the differences between each other. He encourages getting to know people because if you talk to someone long enough, you will find that you have something in common with them.

“We need to get past diversity and inclusion being about race,” he said. “Diversity to me means people with different views and experiences.”

When considering early career moves, he encouraged those just entering the workplace to take risks. Frieson said later in your career, it is harder to rebound for risks-turned-losses, but early careers can bounce back.

“Everyone gets knocked down. The important part is getting back up,” he said. “How am I prepared for next time?”

Frieson also warned young employees not to be phased by criticism. If you keep focused on the right things, then you can’t put credence in the critics. When success comes to young employees, there are often others that oppose or want to counter that success by saying bad things.

“If you are well-read, well-spoken and do your homework, then no one can be that much better than you,” said Frieson.

Frieson said the reason he donated $1 million to the Frieson Black Cultural Center in October is because as a trailblazer, the legacy he leaves behind is the most important thing to him. He credits UT as the initial step to his success because the center gives UT students a place to grow and further their education.

You can learn more about the trailblazer series, by clicking here.

Camille Gear also contributed to this story

Edited by Jessica Carr and Hannah Hunnicutt

Featured Image by Nathan Odom

Board of Education rejects cultural competency resolution

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The Knox County Board of Education met on Wednesday to discuss several issues still plaguing the school system. The most notable topic was the failure of the Cultural Competency Training (CCT), a cultural competency resolution.

The resolution includes forcing school employees to go through a training system in order to “have a better understanding of how students act around school,” said school board student representative Sydney Gabrielson.

Betsy Hobkirk, an elementary art teacher at West Hills Elementary School, expressed her passion for teaching and brought up some changes that could possibly lay the foundation for CCT, such as smaller classroom sizes and more adults in the school.

Other teachers voiced their opinions on their displeasure with the lack of disciplinary options for students. Many teachers do not want to send their students to the PAC room, similar to an in school suspension, because they would rather work through problems with a hands on approach.

Hobkirk believes that students are now becoming discouraged to show emotion.

“Students struggle in all aspects of life,” she said. “Instead of punishing children for not doing work, find out what’s going on in their life.”

Knoxville resident and resolution supporter Steve Rodgers announced that they have requested training for all surrounding schools, not just certain districts.

Board of Education members were split on opinions towards this resolution. One of the board members’ biggest concerns is the lack of acknowledgment behind the program. Gloria Deathridge, a spectator of the meeting, said that the resolution has “been watered down to basically nothing.”

Board chair member Doug Harris said that the resolution is a “good faith effort (…) but we’re jumping ahead on this.”

Some board members believed that this was too pre-mature and there was not enough detail for a contract of this magnitude to be signed, while others were adamant about bringing this to fruition and working out the kinks when they came along. In the end, the resolution plan failed, with only two “yes” votes; six “no” votes; and one extension vote.

Kyle Furman also contributed to this story

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt