The College of Communication and Information's Diversity and Inclusion Week concluded last night with a festival in Circle Park.

Caroline Mullen, sophomore in journalism and electronic media, could not resist the most obvious attraction at the festival.

"I was really hungry, and I saw free food," she said.

With burgers and hot dogs provided by CCI and a steel drummer performing in the background, the crowd slowly accumulated. Although the weather is turning colder, the atmosphere at Circle Park hearkened back to summer months.

"It's pretty hip and cool, I like it," Mullen said. "The music is good ... summer atmosphere even though it's almost fall."

Ryan Webb, junior in political science, also showed up for the free food. He was impressed with the festival and what it represents for diversity at UT.

"I think they've definitely taken steps in the right direction," Webb said.

The festival serves as the final event for the week-long program that has focused on student input and education about diversity. CCI has hosted two panels per day since Monday, with topics such as "Diversity and Sexuality" and "Diversity and Sports."

"I've been to two of the panels this week, the health one and the sports one, and it was really informative. I feel like I learned a lot," Mullen said.

Part of UT's quest for a Top 25 public university ranking centers on an increased awareness of diversity. The administration has created a new position, the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, to help facilitate inclusion. The first of four candidates for the opening, Rickey L. Hall, visited campus Thursday morning for a public forum and question and answer session.

Hall, the current assistant vice president for equity and diversity at the University of Minnesota, presented his views on diversity in the UC Shiloh Room to a group of fewer than 30 faculty. He began his presentation with a simple explanation that microcosmically represented his ideas.

"I'm going to read the slides for accessibility reasons," he said.

Hall continued, explaining the vision he hopes to implement at UT. He focused on the importance of including all communities, as well asking critical questions about community identity.

"How are we we? I think that's a big question," Hall said.

After his presentation, the faculty asked various questions regarding LGBT inclusion, disability services and religious openness.

Ken D. Coopwood, the vice president for diversity and inclusion at Missouri State University will visit today from 9:30 a.m to 10:45 a.m. After fall break, Dr. John O. Bello-Ogunu from the College of Charleston will discuss his vision on Tuesday, Oct. 16 from 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Melva "Cookie" Newsom from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be the last candidate to speak, presenting on Thursday, Oct. 18 from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.

All of these forums are webcast live and archived for viewing. For more information, visit chancellor.utk.edu/announcements/20120928.shtml.