The College of Communication and Information's Diversity Student Leaders Society (CCI DSLS) will soon be hosting its fifth annual "Experience Diversity Banquet."

Tonight at 7 p.m. in the Bearden Banquet Hall, club members will showcase their organizational goals. Chelsea Sanz, president of CCI DSLS, described the banquet as an opportunity for the club to reach out to the community.

"We utilize it as a showcase to keep our gracious sponsors informed of what we do as an organization: community service, community building and career development," Sanz said. "We also utilize the banquet as a fundraiser and the opportunity to publicly honor the CCI Diversity Award winner."

The CCI Diversity Award winner is chosen based on their contribution to the community.

"We choose (the winner) with some faculty and students and myself," said Alice Wirth, director of CCI DSLS. "Basically (we look) at the community, (and find) people who have made a community a better place in reference to diversity and inclusion."

This year's banquet's keynote speaker and CCI Diversity Award recipient is Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. She is the first female mayor of Knoxville and the first female to be elected mayor in any of Tennessee's largest cities (Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga).

Nicholas Meade, co-sponsor of CCI DSLS, said that the purpose of the banquet is to increase awareness of the importance of diversity, as well as raise funds for the club.

"The purpose of the banquet is to endorse and embrace civility, diversity and inclusion in (the College of Communication and Information) and to provide an inspirational diversity experience for students, faculty and all others in attendance," Meade said. "The banquet also raises funds to support the college's Diversity and Inclusion Program."

The club uses this banquet to fundraise for educational trips to Washington, D.C., Chicago and Charlotte. In addition to a meal and awards presentation, there will be cultural acts, pictures of CCI DSLS's year in review, a performance by the CCI DSLS students, dancing and silent and live auctions at the banquet. Sanz, who is also a senior in communication studies, hopes students will walk away with an increased understanding of what diversity really is.

"More than anything, we seek to promote the idea that diversity exists amongst each of us," she said. "I hope that people will walk away with a healthy curiosity for that concept and that this event encourages others to explore both their own diversity and the diversity they are surrounded by."

Meade, a lecturer for the School of Communication Studies, agreed with Sanz.

"(I hope that) the ... banquet will reiterate the importance of continuing to raise awareness (of) the importance of civility, diversity and inclusion in our daily lives," said Meade. "And to demonstrate the College of Communication and Information's commitment to maintaining civility, diversity (at UT)."

This event is open to the UT community and the public. Tickets are $30 each or a table of ten may be purchased for $300.00. RSVP to Beth Cole at bcole@utk.edu or 865-974-1540.