A Brief History of the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville
In the early 90s, part of the work of the Asheville Jewish Community Relations Council was to visit with new school superintendents about the needs of Jewish families including religious holidays, school attendance, and bullying. On one particular visit around 1994, a discussion about the importance of teaching about cultural diversity was raised. The reply was something to the effect of “We already have to teach about how to brush teeth, how to drop and roll. There just isn’t time. And besides, we can only teach what is in the NC Standard Course of Study [NCSCS].” So the committee members ordered the multi-volumes of K-12 NCSCS and began to highlight the places where cultural diversity was required to be taught. From that conversation, the Center for Diversity Education (CDE) was formed with Deborah Miles as Director.
In 1995, initial programming from the CDE took place at the Asheville Jewish Community Center with Festivals of Light: People with Many Flames, which educated elementary students about the cultural traditions of light-filled holidays. Over the following three years, additional programs included teacher professional development and exhibits about the Holocaust.
In 1998, the CDE became its own 501c(3) and moved downtown to the Pack Place Arts and Science Center. Programming continued for K-12 students and teachers with activities that included professional development, exhibits, road shows, and a lending library. Schools from across WNC participated with upwards of 15,000 students a year. Funding came from donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, and fees for service.
Since its formation, the CDE worked closely with faculty at UNC Asheville as subject experts and board members. In 2003, the Center moved to UNC Asheville, which initially provided space for the non-profit. Opportunities for students grew as CDE worked with faculty to turn class required research into exhibits. These exhibits matched the NCSCS and were first displayed at UNC Asheville for visiting middle and high school students. Eventually, those exhibits traveled to regional schools. Over time, CDE staff also worked on university initiatives through the Diversity Action Council (DAC), which included faculty professional development, hiring policies, and assessments.
In 2014, CDE became “The UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education” through an agreement that was approved by the UNC system and included the dissolution of non-profit status. The CDE continued to work with regional K-12 systems along with the needs of UNC Asheville. It also grew its connections in the community through initiatives such as the WNC Diversity Engagement Coalition. This initiative grew out of an effort to strengthen Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at UNC Asheville by being a community partnership – not just living within one institution.
In 2018, director and founder of CDE, Deborah Miles, retired at the same time as a new chancellor was installed. In 2019, the search for a new CDE director was about to commence when the global COVID19 pandemic hit. The search commenced in 2020 and Dr. Cristina Viera led the CDE from August 2021 through Summer 2022.
In May 2023, Dr. Kimberly Nava Eggett, began her work as the Director for the CDE. As a UNC Asheville Alum (’05), Dr. Nava Eggett comes to the CDE with 17 years of experience as a public school educator, instructional technology coach, and advocate. Her passion for diversity and inclusion was a driving force as she supported classrooms and educators in Asheville City Schools. She looks forward to leveraging the CDE to support equity and inclusion efforts at UNC Asheville, K-12 WNC school districts and the greater community.
Since 1995, The Center for Diversity Education has hosted a large variety of programs, which can be seen in our photo galleries.