UF’s Chief Diversity Officer wants students to ‘Level Up’ on belonging

University of Florida’s Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Advisor to the President Antonio Farias wants everyone on campus to “level up” on belonging and inclusion.

Farias launched a podcast entitled “Level Up on Presence and Belonging” at the start of the semester to give a voice to UF’s diverse students, faculty and staff to the community, and to spark conversations about the different experiences they’ve had.

“My greatest hope is that the listeners will feel a sense of connection to the human beings that I have the privilege and honor of interviewing,” Farias said. “My website is useless to the community if all it does it put out some canned statement about belonging, equity and inclusion. I think the best way to sort of bring out that message is to actually put real human beings in front of a microphone.”

In each podcast episode, Farias interviews a different UF student, faculty or staff member and discusses diversity and asks the question, “What does it mean to belong?”

Farias says he selects each of his guests randomly across campus, sometimes choosing people who just happen to stop in his office. If he thinks they could be a good contributor, he’ll ask them if they want to be on the podcast.

“They usually think it’s a little bit weird, and a little bit cool, and they more likely than not will say yes,” Farias said, “so they end up next on the list.”

Second-year journalism major Jania Lowe was a guest on Farias’ seventh podcast episode. She said although she was nervous to be on the program at first, he was very welcoming.

“It was wonderful,” Lowe said. “He’s so friendly and down to earth.”

Farias said he’s been surprised with every single guest he’s had on the podcast and how much they’re willing to share.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from interviewing my guests is that I shouldn’t have any preconceived notions,” Farias said.

Farias, a fan of podcasts himself, said he chose it as the medium for his show because it’s so easily consumable.  

Farias isn’t the only one at UF with a podcast on the topic of inclusion, however. UF Computer and Information Science and Engineering professors Dr. Jeremy Waisome and Dr. Kyla McMullen are the creators of “Modern Figures,” a conversational-style podcast that promotes the voices of black female scholars in computing. Each episode features a new guest who shares their experiences in computing as a woman of color.

“Level Up” podcast episodes are released every Tuesday and run about 10 minutes long. The podcast is available for free on the UF CDO website via SoundCloud and iTunes.

Text Christi-Anne Weatherly, Photo/Video by Lyon Duong April 2, 2019