UConn honored for programs ensuring diversity and inclusion among suppliers

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The University of Connecticut Storrs campus from above. The University of Connecticut will be honored for its commitment to economic inclusion. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

The University of Connecticut will be honored for its commitment to economic inclusion. UConn ensures  that companies operated by members of underrepresented populations receive adequate access and information to compete for University contracts, according to UConn Today.  

UConn will receive the inaugural Jesse L. Moore 2021 Supplier Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and only print publication that focuses on diversity and inclusion in higher education, Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokesperson, said in UConn Today.  

“Supplier diversity is critical because it helps to ensure that small (SBE) and minority-owned business (MBE) enterprises have adequate access and information to compete for contracts against larger firms with deeper pockets, established relationships, or more years of bidding experience,” Reitz said. 

UConn has been recognized as a leader in the field, exceeding state contracting goals in Connecticut for SBE and MBE construction projects.  

“As an institution with a wide economic reach in Connecticut, UConn is deeply committed to ensuring that its values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in its financial practices,” President Thomas Katsouleas said.  

UConn was one of nine institutions honored nationwide to receive the award.  

“Small and minority-owned business enterprises bring valuable talent and experience to contracted projects,” Katsouleas said. “Providing clear and proactive services to help them navigate and participate in UConn’s bidding processes has positive effects for our communities and our state’s economic well-being. The University is proud to be a leader in this area and appreciative of the latest recognition of its efforts.” 

Veronica Cook, UConn Supply Diversity Program Executive Director, said the award holds greater meaning because of who it is named after.  

“Mr. Moore was one of the first supplier diversity practitioners to take my call over a decade ago, as UConn’s program was beginning to take shape,” Cook said in UConn Today. “Despite the fact that he was in the process of moving, he extended his time to share his expertise, extensive even back then, and to introduce me to the National Association of Educational Procurement’s Supplier Diversity Institute, which was also in its early stages.”  

Programs like UConn’s demonstrate intentional policies to ensure that small and minority businesses feel welcome to compete in fair and transparent solicitation processes, Reitz said.  

“Ensuring that S/MBE’s have contracting opportunities strengthens state and regional economies; helps institutions to contract with a wider variety of companies that better represent the diversity of their area, and can help reduce the wealth gap,” Reitz said in UConn Today. “Under Connecticut state law, at least 25% of a state’s agency’s construction spending for projects valued at $50,000 or more must go to qualified SBEs and, of that, one-quarter must go to qualified MBEs, equaling 6.25% of the agency’s total construction spending annually for that same over $50,000 projects.”  

UConn proactively raised its annual construction goals to 30% for SBEs, including 10 percent of the total construction spending for MBEs, Reitz said.  

“It is gratifying to receive recognition for the efficacy of the work that we as an institution and as a program are doing in the area of supplier diversity,” Cook said. 

UConn also received the Minority Construction Council (MCC) Inaugural Corporate Partnership Award and has been honored twice with the Institution for Higher Learning Award from the Greater New England Minority Supplier Development Council, Reitz said in UConn Today.  

 “As we graciously accept this and any award, we must also accept the responsibility of continuing to evolve,” Cook said. “To do this successfully, we must continue to partner both legislatively and internally to remove barriers and ensure that we are even more accessible, informative, and inclusive in our procurement process until we see a consistent increase in the utilization of small and minority-owned business enterprises on UConn contracts.” 

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