For Lewis Wheaton, Black History Month is a special opportunity to recognize African-American culture and history. However, Wheaton celebrates diversity and promotes cultural inclusion all twelve months of the year.
“As far back as I can recall, I was taught to value humanity, love those around you, and learn their perspectives,” says Wheaton, an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences. “Our society is made great not just because of the wonderful blend of culture that we can see all around us, but in our ability to really value our neighbors.”
In both his personal and professional life, Wheaton takes direct action to improve cultural awareness and consider the interests of wider ranges of humanity.
During conversations with colleagues Manu Platt and Anne Pollock, Wheaton realized a lack of interdisciplinary focus on the relationship between scientific study and social influences. Rather than let their ideas end in conversation, the cohort launched Georgia Tech’s working group on Race and Racism in Contemporary Biomedicine in 2015. Today, the group works with various metro Atlanta Colleges to develop programming addressing race and racism in biomedical research.
When Wheaton leaves Georgia Tech’s campus, he continues to promote diversity and inclusion. And, when it comes to encouraging diversity in one's personal life, Wheaton underscores the importance of taking small daily actions to increase one’s cultural awareness.
“Whether in science, public service as an elected official, or in leadership in societies, I do all I can to ensure that we consider the needs and interests of wider-ranges of humanity,” he says.
With the encouragement of his parents and inspiration from Frederick Douglass, Wheaton says he learned the importance of cultural celebration. Each February he devotes extra attention to the black community, sharing many untold and unappreciated aspects of black culture and history. He also takes the time to learn about and celebrate those various wonderful and beautiful elements.
“We can talk to people that aren’t like us, seek opportunities to welcome people from all backgrounds into our organizations, and we can all support (by way of attendance) celebrations of diversity all around campus, even when we do not belong to that diverse group,” says Wheaton.
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By Grace Pietkiewicz, First-Year Student, School of Literature, Media, and Communication