A Welcoming EnvironmentODI Green DayIn front of the library

Office of Diversity and Inclusion

When I began working at Stetson, I was enamored yet a bit confused as to why our mascot was a Hatter. Understanding the history of the pioneering western hat designed by John. B. Stetson, with whom our institution is named after, is the foundation of being a part of the Stetson community. Yet, I thought, there must be more to the Hatter mascot, than the hat and its owner. I was determined to find out what the true meaning of a Hatter was.

Then, I met Stetson students, and everything fell into place.

I have the privilege of being surrounded by Hatters every day. Stetson's diversity fosters the excellence of community because it is a source of strength, cultural awareness and creativity. Being the Director of Diversity and Inclusion, I also have the responsibility of supporting students while navigating them through their own battles with discrimination. Yes, it happens everywhere. No place is immune to racism. I will share with each of you what I share with students battling racism on or off our campus. As black and brown people, we are not defined by our ethnicity or race; rather, we are empowered by it. We are our ancestors' wildest and greatest dreams. We are the embodiment of excellence. We are powerful. We too are Hatters!

I gain strength from multicultural alumni who embrace current students who look like us. Our alumni share their pride and encourage students to continue their legacy in our stored halls at Stetson University. I gain strength from the power of faculty members who teach true inclusiveness and equity. I gain strength from my colleagues who refuse to ignore racism in any form and speak up and speak out because racism does not embody who we are as a university.

A hat symbolizes the power of our campus community. A hat acknowledges our greatness. Working at Stetson and becoming a Hatter myself, reminds me of my own father often tipping his hat in acknowledgment when passing people as we drove or walked around our little town in Virginia. I notice our students acknowledging their friends in a similar manner, yet in their own uniqueness that is truly Stetson. The tipping of their hat comes in the form of raising of a black and brown fist, peace signs, hugs, fist bumps or a head nod. These symbols are the real representation of what it means to embody authority and respect.

Building a sense of belonging in our community means embodying oneself as a global citizen. As Hatters, we are bound together; yet we are also bound and connected to those who we have yet to meet.

As global citizens, we are connected to Christian Cooper in Central Park. We are connected to George Floyd in Minneapolis. As global citizens, we aren’t simply bird watching. As global citizens, we also "can't breathe."

As Hatters, we have an opportunity to engage in true intellectual development and learn from those around us. Our integrity and sustenance don't simply begin and end in our hearts. They start under our hats and in the "spirit of exploration." Our intelligence teaches us how to support and react to one another. Under our hats holds the ability to lift each other up and hold fast to the belief that we can reach inclusive excellence.

We have the great ability to embrace our values as members of Stetson University by removing our hats not only when we enter a building, but also as we respectfully enter into a world of true social justice.

With Grace,

Joanne Harris-Duff

Director Office of Diversity and Inclusion, jharrisduff@stetson.edu