University of New England Assistant Provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion Shannon Zlotkowski with UNE President James Herbert at the university’s Biddeford campus. Contributed / University of New England

BIDDEFORD — The University of New England recently held its first annual diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) celebration, which recognized the university’s collective efforts to foster an inclusive campus experience and reaffirmed its commitment to fostering a welcoming environment for all members of its community.

The celebration, held on April 16 at the Ripich Commons on the Biddeford Campus, brought together UNE community members — including students, professional staff, faculty, and administration — to honor the contributions made to promoting DEI across the university’s campuses.

President James Herbert kicked off the event by commending the collaborative approach to DEI initiatives at UNE, including the exceptional work of Shannon Zlotkowski, M.S., UNE’s assistant provost for DEI.

“(She) is our quarterback, and she does a great job,” Herbert said, expanding that all the colleges, offices, and divisions make DEI possible, and that Zlotkowski coordinates and rallies those efforts.

At the celebration, Zlotkowski highlighted the university’s historical roots in extending educational opportunities to marginalized communities and its recent efforts to cement DEI values into its strategic plan and create dedicated positions and spaces for this work.

Zlotkowski praised the numerous faculty, professional staff, and student-led initiatives that have contributed to advancing DEI on campus and commended student organizations like the United Multicultural Student Organization, the Black and Latinx Student Union, and the Jewish Medical Student Association for their efforts in hosting cultural events and fostering a sense of belonging.


Additionally, Zlotkowski echoed Herbert in acknowledging the university’s professional development sessions, collaborations between departments, and the work of committees dedicated to DEI efforts across various colleges and offices.

Looking ahead, Zlotkowski emphasized the importance of creating a space where individuals can live freely and feel a sense of belonging. She shared a quote from the poet and activist Alok, highlighting the power of beauty, empathy, and preserving humanity in the face of adversity and despair.

“This event is my way of saying thank you for being on my beauty playlist,” Zlotkowski said. “There’s beautiful, beautiful people and work being done here.”

The event concluded with an invitation for attendees to contribute to a community art project, write thank-you notes to individuals who have supported DEI efforts, and engage in a puzzle activity centered around interconnectedness.

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