Diversity Internship Program to bring more representation

By Bénédicte Yenyi Mulumba, Staff Writer

The University Facilities and Services is establishing a Diversity Internship Program to recruit undergraduate and graduate students for part and full-time job opportunities.

A main principle of F&S is to create a diverse and inclusive workplace to foster the talents of employees.

Mohamed Attalla, executive director of F&S, said in an email that research has shown that service providers are most successful when their profile and demography resemble their customers and the community they serve.  

“Facilities and Services enjoys a wonderfully diverse student population. Facilities and Services as one of the largest central units on campus, through this program, is trying to bring its demography and profile closer to its greatest customer base,” Attalla said. “We believe that this approach will enable us to enhance our service to our customers.”

Lowa Mwilambwe, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said programs like this are important for the University because it serves a diverse community.

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“When you look at the demographics of this country, they are changing, and you can’t just have the leadership of the campus made up of one specific race when the student body is more diverse,” Mwilambwe said

Regarding the racial harassment lawsuit of Derick Brown, who worked for F&S since 2006, Attalla refuted any relation between the lawsuit and the program. He said the program aims to provide experiential learning opportunities to students, bring great value to the University System and support the core research and education missions.

“We are finalizing a Facility and Services Strategic Plan, and it will speak of a crucial objective that is related to diversity and inclusion and also related to academic collaboration,” Attalla said. “This program will bring F&S much closer to achieving this objective.”

Matthew Tomaszewski, associate provost for Capital Programs, said in an email that F&S has identified a key strategic goal to enhance diversity and inclusion throughout the organization.  

“This program is one of the approaches that directly supports this goal (to address the lack of diversity in F&S),” Tomaszewski said.

When it comes to the representation of diverse minority groups on campus, Mwilambwe said there is room for improvement.

“You are not only looking at the University of Illinois, but you are also looking at other universities and ask how do we fair (the representation of diverse population).” Mwilambwe said.

Tomaszewski said the program is recruiting in every field and does not target any specific group.

“The University of Illinois has an outstanding reputation as one of the top research and educational institutions.  Companies seeking new hires turn to the University of Illinois because of the quality of our graduates,” Tomaszewski said. “This program adds to that experience for our students while supporting diversity and inclusion objectives.”

Mwilambwe said for any field or university, having a staff that represents the community is important.

“I never felt discriminated against, but I work in a field of student affairs and we work on diversity and when people hear about that, they are open-minded,” Mwilambwe said.

Attalla said F&S hopes to attract a number of students from diverse backgrounds and different professional functions who will be engaged in a work term.

“Students have contributed significantly to Facilities and Services work, so we know that this program will help the students who participate gain workplace experiences to help prepare them for successful careers,” Attalla said.

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