URBANA, Ill. - Tony Franklin, associate director of field operations for University of Illinois Extension, received the 2017 Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award on Leadership in Diversity from the Office of the Chancellor. The award honors nominees who demonstrate exceptional dedication to and success in promoting diversity and inclusion.
In addition to being one of Extension’s core administrative leaders, Franklin serves as the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer for Extension and monitors civil rights and affirmative action compliance. Franklin is also an ex-officio member of the Joint Committee on Socially Responsible Licensing and Investment and a member of the College of ACES Diversity Committee.
“Diversity in the workplace is important to provide an inclusive environment for all employees,” says Franklin, who also supports staff in adapting Extension programs for diverse audiences. “Part of our job is to make sure that we provide programs for everyone out there, not just those who look like us, but also for those who don’t look like us.”
Extension Director George Czapar says, “Tony has had a significant impact on University of Illinois Extension and made us better. He’s helped us tackle unconscious biases in recruitment and hiring, increase the diversity of local advisory councils, and provide training for our entire organization.”
Franklin joined Extension in 2001 as the Knox County Extension director, and began his service as Associate Director of Field Operations in 2014. He credits his work with the Crow Creek Reservation High School in Stephan, South Dakota, over 30 years ago, with sparking his passion for creating equal access to education.
“I used to really have a chip on my shoulder at one time. And my experience working on the reservation taught me, well, I need to take that chip off my shoulder, because here’s another group of people that’s very oppressed,” says Franklin. “I have an education – I’m able to do this, I’m able to do this – and I saw myself in a different light. I think that’s where my journey began, and from that point on, I’ve always advocated for other people.”
Franklin received the award from Rusty Barcelo, Chancellor Robert Jones' external diversity advisor, at the 32nd Annual Celebration of Diversity on November 10, hosted by the Office of the Chancellor.
“I have a personal passion for doing the work – to help people learn about each other, learn about differences, and bring people together around difficult subjects,” says Franklin. “My passion comes from my religious beliefs, and also the fact that I have multi-ethnic children.”
Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.