2018 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference seeks to leverage diversity

Ariel Themm, Staff Reporter

The 2018 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference will be held in the Oakland Center banquet rooms on Thursday, April 12, beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing until 5 p.m. The theme of this year’s conference is “Leveraging Diversity: Stand Up, Stand Strong, Stand Together.”

For the beginning of the conference, there will be a spoken word performance from Alicea Davis followed by a campus welcome from Dr. James Lentini, the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Oakland University. Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz will be making an appearance along with Glenn McIntosh, Vice President for Student Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer. McIntosh was also the leader of the committee that arranged this year’s conference topic.

“The committee has staff, faculty, and administration and we met last semester to discuss how the conference was going to look like and that’s when me and Beth Talbert were nominated to be the co-coordinators,” said Grace Wojcik, the co-coordinator of the conference and coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center. “We want to meet certain needs by selecting specific speakers to present and get across the message we are portraying.”

Among this year’s guest speakers will be Dr. Z Nicolazzo, Dr. Betty Overton and Margaret Brower, M.A.

Nicolazzo is an assistant professor of higher education and student affairs at Northern Illinois University and will be speaking on “Building Trans-Inclusive Campuses: Leveraging Evidence for National Studies to Inform Campus Practice.” Overton is the senior associate of the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and a clinical professor at the University of Michigan. Brower is a current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago. Overton and Brower will be speaking together on “Hidden Inequalities: Modern Sexism in the Academy.”

“The three main speakers were carefully selected, and we saw a valuable quality in their presentations that we didn’t want anyone to miss,” said Beth Talbert, the co-coordinator of the conference and chief adviser and special lecturer for the Communications Department said. “These will be good speakers that the community could use. All [speakers] are well-known with good topics, interesting areas that need and should be discussed.”

After lectures from the guest speakers, McIntosh will provide closing remarks and present the Monica E. Emerson Diversity Award and the Timothy G. Larrabee SOGI Equity and Inclusion Award. The conference will conclude with a wine and cheese reception.

Due to limited seating spaces and a previous lack of student interest, this conference will be exclusive to faculty and staff members. Through the conference, administration hopes to encourage involvement from staff to help make the community more inclusive.

“The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of diversity, to promote inclusion for folks, to push for initiatives,” Wojcik said. “We want more people involved and aware of diversity issues. We have gaps that need to be filled to promote inclusion and hopefully this conference can  inspire for creations of new initiatives to help fill those gaps. This could make the community more comfortable for all students, staff and faculty.”