Florida Poly aims to advance diversity and inclusion in 2021

Jan 15, 2021
Rick Maxey

Rick Maxey, assistant vice president for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is focusing his efforts on increasing opportunities and equity for all members of the Florida Polytechnic University community.

Florida Polytechnic University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion is laser focused on ensuring the entire campus community feels accepted, comfortable, and included, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, or other characteristics.

“We want to be recognized as one of the best among universities at creating a diverse environment,” said Rick Maxey, assistant vice president for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “We want to ensure that there’s an equitable component to it and that people have appropriate opportunities to improve and progress and feel like they are a part of the University.”

The office Maxey leads was created in August 2020. It is charged with implementing strategies, programs, and behaviors that allow everyone within the University to feel accepted, respected, and provided access to equitable opportunities.

“We should be doing everything we can to make sure people from all representative groups have an option to participate in what Florida Poly is – it could be life changing,” Maxey said. “An education at this University can change generations, so you can break a cycle in a family, and for many generations you can have prosperity in that family that trickles to the local, state, and national community.”

Maxey said the office is focused on six significant priorities:

  • Recruiting diverse students, faculty, and staff from communities within Florida, as well as nationally and internationally
  • Ensuring opportunities are in place for students and employees to grow and advance
  • Promoting acceptance, education, and celebration throughout Florida Poly
  • Assuring the safety and support of all individuals and creating an environment that promotes this
  • Actively developing a pipeline to combat the underrepresentation of specific groups in STEM
  • Building community connections that further the spirit of inclusion throughout the greater Lakeland, Florida, community

Maxey said students and employees will soon receive a survey to help Florida Poly better understand how they see the campus environment and how they are affected in regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The results of the survey will help the University determine the most effective actions that can be taken.

Ensuring equity and inclusivity is especially relevant at this time as the nation pauses to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 18.

“I hope we will do things throughout the year that will address what King saw as a dream; that dream being that all of us will be accepted and given opportunities to advance, grow, and work together in this society,” Maxey said.

Embracing King and following his teachings reflects a mission that is personal to Maxey.

“I grew up during the end of the civil rights era, so I remember the boycotts and I remember when integration occurred,” Maxey said. “I was going into the eighth grade and they bused kids from my community to a town next to us that was all white, and I remember the animosity from the adults about us coming to that school.

“There were incidents where I saw racism play out that was just – to this this day – troubling.”

Such incidents have continued through today, ranging from daily microaggressions to stunning displays of racism.

 “When you deal with those incidents on a daily basis, it hurts your performance, so it’s important to do whatever we can at the University so people don’t experience that,” he said.


Lydia Guzman
Director of Communications