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Diversity Conference: a yearly tradition

by Kristina Livingston - Executive Editor
Tue, Oct 3rd 2017 09:00 pm

A legacy of committing to the promotion of diversity, equity and justice for all will soon surpass 17 years at the annual Diversity Conference Thursday, Oct. 5. 

Beginning in 2000 under the guidance of former chief diversity officer Joel Frater, the 2017 conference will be conducted under a theme of intersectionality in justice and equity, featuring two keynote speakers whose backgrounds and experiences with adversity align with the conference’s goal of universal respect for difference. 

Following brief introductions from faculty and student government officials, President Heidi Macpherson, Ph.D., will welcome Sister Grace Miller to the stage for the presentation of the morning keynote address.

According to Democrat & Chronicle, Miller opened the nondiscriminatory homeless shelter The House of Mercy in 1985, which she was able to do through the aid of the Sisters of Mercy. Although the shelter’s location has since changed, Miller works to serve more than 4,000 every month. 

“She is the true example of loving and respecting everyone,” Assistant to the Chief Diversity Officer Heather Packer said.

Miller’s address will be followed by presentations, film showings, discussions and workshops across campus made possible by hundreds of volunteers, alongside core committees which work year-round to prepare the conference. Approximately 30 outside organizations and non-profits will be involved, including local chapters such as Willow Domestic Violence Center. The recognition of a life consisting of trials such as domestic violence as being diversity is a concept Packer stresses.

The morning ceremonies will also feature the awarding of the Douglas Feldmen LGBT Paper Award.

The event will consist of three educational sessions spanning an hour and fifteen minutes per session, as well as a mid-afternoon multicultural food tasting in the Union Ballroom featuring performances by the Hip Hop Dance Club as well as the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble. The day will conclude with the Sig and Nadine Synnestvedt Memorial Lecture, this year a part of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives,  a talk entitled “One Million Abolitionists” hosted by descendents of Douglass.  

The selection of The New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore to convey the evening keynote address at 7 p.m. in the SERC coincided with this year’s freshman reading program at The College at Brockport, which assigned incoming students read his memoir entitled “The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters.” A champion of United States veterans, Moore, alongside Miller, embodies the drive for equity and justice which the college aims to promote, according to Packer.  

With the expansion of the Diversity Conference to include the summer reading program, the Diversity Conference Planning Committee hopes to reach out to all points of campus.

“Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be a separate department,” Packer said.  “Every teacher, every professor, every student.”

The conference’s goal of teaching students and faculty about the capacity to respect and include all peoples will be showcased in what is expected to be the largest conference in the college’s history, according to Packer.

“I am very proud to work for [President] Macpherson and [Chief Diversity Officer] Cephas Archie,” Packer said. “[The conference] shows that administrators are extremely supportive of diversity and inclusion education throughout campus; not just for the conference, but for everyday life and in the classroom.”

Registration for the 2017 annual Diversity Conference will remain open until 11:30 a.m. the day of. The conference will give a platform to a significant range of topics, including dyslexia, multicultural competence and gender identities outside of structured binaries. 

A full schedule of events may be accessed online at brockport.edu/about/diversity. 

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