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Amanda Hamilton, the College of Public Health’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator, is driven by a passion for fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment in higher education. 

Hamilton joined the University of Kentucky (UK) in 2013, armed with a Bachelor’s degree in history from Georgetown College and a Master’s in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Texas State University. 

During her time with UK’s Violence Intervention and Prevention (VIP) Center as a Training and Advocacy Specialist, Hamilton was struck by the intersections of oppression, violence, and mental health she observed among the college students. 

“While working at the VIP Center, I started being really intentional in getting continuing education in different areas of diversity and inclusion so I could best serve my clients at the center,” Hamilton said. “I quickly realized that this was a passion for me.” 

In 2020, Hamilton came to the College of Public Health to work on the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) grant, focusing on substance use disorders and stigma. Her time on the OD2A grant ignited her passion for working to shape equitable policies. 

As the DEI Coordinator, Hamilton envisions a holistic approach to inclusive excellence. She aims to identify and amplify the college's strengths in diversity and inclusion while pinpointing areas for growth. 

“Some of our core values in CPH include diversity, equity, and inclusion, so I think it goes without saying that the role of DEI Coordinator is important to living out those values,” she said. “Our mission and values should not just be words, but actions.”

Hamilton leads the college’s Committee for Inclusive Excellence, which includes faculty, staff, students, and alumni --- a structure that ensures a diverse array of perspectives. She emphasizes the importance of hearing from various voices to achieve inclusive excellence in the college. Currently, the committee has four student members who bring valuable perspectives on the challenges faced by students in the college. 

The committee is gathering information on the college’s policies and practices to decide where to focus its efforts. It is also actively engaged in advocacy efforts, focusing on communication, internal policies, recruitment, and retention strategies. 

An early priority of the committee is the development of recommendations to increase students' sense of belonging. The committee is also working on the Office of DEI's website to ensure resources are available to support students' needs. The committee also is examining ways to make the college more accessible, whether through accommodating distance learners and remote employees or by enhancing physical accessibility within the college.

Looking ahead, Hamilton and the committee aspires to create a college where every member truly believes in the slogan “You Belong Here.” 

“Every member of the committee has shown their commitment to the hard but rewarding work we have ahead of us as a committee and a college,” she said. “I hope that everyone in the college will commit to doing their part in making our college a better place for all.” 

To learn more about the Committee for Inclusive Excellence, click here.