Improving diversity, equity, inclusion in workplaces

Autumn Page, Staff Reporter

Career Services successfully hosted their virtual 2021 Diversity Panel and Mixer in February and are planning a bigger and better event for next year.  

The Diversity Panel and Mixer gives students and employers the opportunity to engage with one another in important and mindful conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion in today’s work environment. 

“We wanted to have a casual mixer where students would feel comfortable to talk about some of the hard questions they may have,” Sarah Swarz, the marketing and events coordinator for Career Services, said.  

This event provided an opportunity for students to network with employers who prioritize inclusivity, and build awareness of the work being done around this topic in the workplace.

“The goal wasn’t a hiring event, of course we’d love if students got hired from our events, the goal of it is students being able to learn what companies are doing well and to be able to identify red flags during their job hunt,” Swarz said.

The 2021 Diversity Panel and Mixer was made possible by a sponsorship from Rocket Mortgage — the second year Rocket Mortgage has sponsored this event. The panel also included representatives from Rock Ventures, Ernst and Young LLP, the City of Detroit and DTE.

They discussed topics on anti-racism, accessibility, LGBTQIA+ inclusivity and how to navigate returning to the office during the pandemic.

DJ Bridges, University Relations Manager for Rock Central, played a key role in helping this year’s event. He served as panel moderator on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace as well.

“He led our panel and helped us develop questions — which was wonderful,” Swarz said.

This year’s Diversity Panel and Mixer was held virtually for more than 80 participants, including 12 employers who served as panelists and attended the mixer. 

The event was included on the Oakland University African American Celebration Month calendar and was developed in partnership with the Center for Multicultural Initiatives, the Gender and Sexuality Center and Disability Support Services.

During the mixer portion of the event, students, alumni and staff were invited to hear from attending employers about their DEI initiatives and ask questions. 

The panel was conducted on Zoom and once it was over, students, staff, alumni and faculty were automatically put into break-out rooms with employers. Everyone involved went to two break-out room sessions, each being 20 minute sessions. 

After, there was a free roam period, where everyone could jump into different break-out rooms.

“It was awesome, we got some great conversations happening, everyone participating in that event set the tone for the evening,” she said. 

As for next year’s event, Swarz is hopeful for a bigger event, maybe even over the course of a few days.

“We’re still throwing around different things, but it’s looking like this will be a bigger event than it was in 2020 — when we did it in person. It won’t necessarily be after the career fair, but we’re definitely planning to still have the panel — it was a really fulfilling part of the evening,” she said. 

She also hopes to keep the event within the same time frame, the first or second week in February. 

The panel discussion can be found here.