As the first person to hold his role at the University of Arkansas, Anthony DiNicola has, in three years, become a highly sought-after presenter and facilitator for increasing belonging, creating safe spaces and accepting the multitudes of identities on campus.
DiNicola trains and facilitates conversations among faculty, staff, students, athletes and the business community. He leads the UA’s Safe Zone Allies Network, helping faculty and staff understand how to advocate actively for the LGBTQIA+ community. He has since completed a master’s degree in mental health counseling at the UA.
DiNicola grew up in Boston. He spent his previous 13 years in Chicago working as a professional actor and for Catharsis Productions, visiting each branch of the military, colleges and universities and companies conducting training and education around sexual harassment, sexual assault prevention education, and diversity, inclusion and equity — all with a sense of humor and caring.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, he came to Northwest Arkansas with his partner — who is from the area — to quarantine and recognized abundant opportunities to use his background for good.
“I was watching the response to #BlackatUARK in the news, people coming forward and sharing their inequitable experiences, and watching the university trying to reckon with it and say: ‘We don’t have the tools at hand, and we are also dealing with the pandemic, which doesn’t allow us to have those important face-to-face intimate conversations.’ And I was thinking, that’s what I’m good at doing. That’s what I love to do.”
DiNicola sees his contribution as “encouraging people to have the language to say, ‘We have differences, and that’s not a problem; it’s actually a benefit for us.’”