OU’s diverse voices conference goes virtual for the first time in 19 years

Cayla Smith, Campus Editor

For the first time in 19 years, Oakland University’s Diverse Voices Conference goes virtual via Zoom on Saturday, Mar. 13 from to 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 

Every year the conference poses a different theme, and this year’s is “Defining the Role of Social Justice in Practice.” The keynote speaker is Professor Dr. Marilyn Y. Byrd from the University of Oklahoma. She also serves on the Board of Directors as the co-chairperson of the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Special Interest Group. 

Other speakers include Ph.D. student Chelesea Lewellen from the University of Southern Illinois who is studying higher education and graduate and undergraduate students from Oakland University’s department of Counseling and Human Resource Development. These students are Kayla Jones, Maryam Nissan and Dana Cogshell.

This year’s theme came about when there was a unanimous agreement between the members of the Diverse Voices Conference Advisory Board made up of OU faculty, administrators and students.

“We wanted to give a voice to the need for social justice in society and provide a voice for George Floyd – a Black man killed unjustly in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May 2020 and all the Black men and women who have been killed unjustly by the criminal justice system as our way to support the Black Lives Matter movement.” Dr. Chaunda L. Scott said.  

Minneapolis, Minnesota is the hometown of founder and president of the conference — Dr. Scott, who is from the School of Education and Human Services. 

Dr. Scott founded the conference 23 years ago when she began her academic career and teaching at the university level. 

“I launched the first Diverse Voices Conference [DVC] to provide university students with an opportunity and platform to speak out publicly on topics that support human diversity equality, diversity inclusion and social justice for all alongside faculty, business professionals and their peers,” Scott said.

She says that the goal of the Diverse Voices conference at Oakland University is to provide a supportive forum for not only students who attend Oakland University, but other Michigan higher education students, faculty and staff members, community members, local and national speakers and business leaders to learn more about and speak out in support valuing all aspects of human diversity. 

This conference also provides the opportunity for students to develop their critical thinking skills, leadership skills, public speaking skills, social skills, networking skills, human diversity knowledge and encourage social justice advocacy. 

Dr. Scott adds that the uniqueness of Diverse Voices Program is that it serves as an innovative model for effective change that uses cultural influences such as diverse speakers, music, dance, and art to empower students to become leaders of valuing all aspects of human diversity.

The Diverse Voices Conference also provides an opportunity for OU students to interact with students, faculty, staff, business professionals, academic scholars and community members from the in and outside of the Michigan tri-county areas, Wayne, Oakland and Macomb. To date, the following universities have been actively involved with the Diverse Voice Conference at Oakland University: Marygrove College, Wayne State University, Ferris State University, University of Michigan, Ashland Seminary, Baker College, Central Michigan, the University of Detroit Mercy, Davenport University and Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town South, Africa.

Future plans for the Diverse Voices Program include expanding the program to a one-day program format with one or two break out sessions and a luncheon.  

For more information, contact Dr. Scott at [email protected].