The Bearden Banquet Hall was at full capacity Friday night for the sixth annual Experience Diversity Banquet, hosted by the College of Communication and Information’s Diversity Student Leaders Society.

As the main fundraiser for DSLS, banquet proceeds will fund the club’s trip to Chicago at the end of March as well as scholarships for club members planning to attend graduate school.

“The mission is basically to – regardless of one’s background, gender, culture or religion – provide high-quality, equitable opportunities to promote understanding of each other besides just simple tolerance,” Alice Wirth, director and founder, said.

Established in 2007, CCI DSLS honors one individual each year with the Diversity Award, with this year's award going to WBIR-TV’s Channel 10 news anchor Robin Wilhoit. 

Wilhoit helped launch the Buddy Check 10 program to promote breast cancer awareness. She is also a member of Variety of East Tennessee, A Children’s Charity, The Next Door and the UT School of Nursing's Advisory Board. 

“This will serve, no doubt, to reinforce my efforts to be a voice for all, to provide information both truthfully and accurately,” Wilhoit said of her award. “That’s my goal.”

Also serving as the keynote speaker, Wilhoit relayed her experiences as a female reporter. Before arriving at WBIR, Wilhoit was one of only three women working for WJHL-TV in Johnson City. 

The banquet also exhibited a variety of performances including RJ Little, a member of DSLS, singing Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are,” an original poem from Maarifa Arnett, a violin performance from Yuting Huang, an original song by Jac Conley and a piece by Obe Drummers.

“You can go to a bar and see someone playing guitar or to Clarence Brown and see someone playing piano or violin, but you can’t see (them) all at once in one single place in just a couple of hours,” Alexa Carter, co-vice president of DSLS and a senior in chemistry, said.

It is this kind of welcoming, eclectic environment that DSLS hopes to create across campus.

“Diversity inclusion has to be intentional," Wirth said, "And it’s a daily process.”

To learn more about DSLS and the Experience Diversity Banquet, click here