—By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—IU Southeast is proud to host the eighth annual Diversity Research Symposium on Fri., Oct. 21 and Sat., Oct. 22.
Founded in 2009, the Diversity Research Symposium is a collaboration between diversity offices and staff at Ball State University, Indiana State University and Indiana University Southeast, with the institutions taking turns as host.
The 2016 event provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, students and the community to learn, interact, share ideas and network with one another. It is also a chance for the academic institutions to strategize the integration of diversity into their research, curricula and professional development. And finally it serves as a resource for businesses and community organizations seeking to promote diversity within their spheres.
This year’s gathering is titled, “Diversity Climate Change.”
“The theme is a metaphor for the way the subject of diversity is heating up or cooling down,” said Michael Jackman, senior lecturer in English and Academic Affairs diversity coordinator at IU Southeast, and co-director of the event alongside Dr. Julia Mattingly, assistant professor of nursing.
According to Jackman, the metaphor encompasses research, successes, challenges, practices, and pushbacks, and applies to pedagogy, theory, politics, business practices and hiring, administration, changes across and within disciplines and culture, interactions, policy, and much more.
The symposium will feature panels and presentations, posters, creative readings and workshops by scholars and students from the participating institutions as well as Indiana University, Ivy Tech Community College, University of Minnesota at Duluth, the American College of Education, among others.
The keynote speaker is Leslie Aguilar, author of Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts and Diversity & Inclusion: It’s Our Business. Aguilar is the founder of the Orlando, Fla.-based Diversity and Inclusion Center, which assists individuals and organizations in creating cultures and operating environments that encourage respect and nurture diversity.
“For individuals, there is a common feeling that we are powerless to affect the climate around us,” Aguilar said. “In fact, your words and actions can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and in the organization.”
Aguilar’s approach helps not only individuals but also organizations focus attention on how diversity and inclusion are critical for meeting their mission and goals.
“Events like the Symposium bring many different people together to learn, share their knowledge, share their successes and create solutions to challenges,” Aguilar said. “We all benefit from this diversity of thought, and it recharges us.”
The format of the conference has varied from year to year. This year, Jackman and Mattingly have added new items to broaden and, yes, diversify the gathering’s scope. Innovations include a pre-symposium keynote workshop led by Aguilar and open to the entire community at no cost. The keynote itself, on Saturday, will be conducted in the form of a workshop in the use of DiversiScan, a tool that helps leaders analyze their organizational environments for diversity-related issues and opportunities, and provide a process for assessment, dialogue and action.
For the first time, undergraduates will also participate. Thanks to support from the Office of the Chancellor, Office of Campus Life and the School of Nursing, 71 IU Southeast undergraduates from four nursing and education classes will attend the conference for free. The students were nominated by faculty and their participation will be integrated into their coursework.
The conference will also welcome prominent diversity advocates from within the IU system: Dr. James Wimbush, vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs for Indiana University and James Wallace, director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs at IU Northwest.
As a published poet and faculty member who designed the creative writing minor and certificate at IU Southeast, Jackman has been keen to encourage participants to think creatively about diversity. The call for proposals fostered creative approaches to the theme, and one creative reading will be featured.
IU Southeast Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace will introduce the Saturday luncheon workshop.
“Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords,” Jackman said. “Together they form one of the most vital efforts for a healthy culture.”
Higher education can take the lead in promoting diversity as an ideal, as well as in developing best practices and helping other community stakeholders implement them.
“A university is a nexus for social change,” Jackman said. “If we are to reflect our highest values and aspirations we must have our students, staff, faculty and administration represent the diversity of our culture, and seek to understand one another and make the climate welcoming for those who participate.”
The Diversity Research Symposium is supported by the IU Southeast Academy for Diversity and Inclusive Education (ADIE).
The Diversity Research Symposium will begin on Fri., Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Hoosier Room, with the pre-symposium workshop. The conference continues on Sat., Oct. 22 from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Please visit the symposium website for full conference information.