A lens for diversity and equity throughout education

Northern Nevada Diversity Summit identified existing needs and fostered collaboration among institutions of learning across the state

Northern Nevada Diversity Summit

University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty and administration address the topic of diversity with thoughtful discourse at this year’s Northern Nevada Diversity Summit.

A lens for diversity and equity throughout education

Northern Nevada Diversity Summit identified existing needs and fostered collaboration among institutions of learning across the state

University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty and administration address the topic of diversity with thoughtful discourse at this year’s Northern Nevada Diversity Summit.

Northern Nevada Diversity Summit

University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty and administration address the topic of diversity with thoughtful discourse at this year’s Northern Nevada Diversity Summit.

The Northern Nevada Diversity Summit, which took place April 6-7, at the University of Nevada, Reno's Joe Crowley Student Union, offered nearly 500 attendees more than 70 planned presentations designed to encourage dialogue and promote thoughtful action. Attendees included higher education personnel, students, K-12 teachers and staff, as well as community leaders and organizations from across Nevada.

The Summit, "Exploring Diversity and Equity Through Access, Retention & Engagement" was designed to celebrate the progress and strides made around diversity and equity within the state's higher education system and to address and discuss current and future needs along with additional areas of improvement.

"Discussions like the ones that happen during this summit, help to move us forward as we work toward creating a diverse community that not only acknowledges, reflects and respects the real-world experiences of our students and faculty, but also finds ways to build on our diversity," David Sanders, University Faculty Senate chair, said.
 
Sanders added that by asking ourselves important, poignant questions about diversity and equity that this work will best be accomplished.

"This Diversity Summit comes at a crucial time in our development as a University," he said. "This Summit is about listening to each other, bringing clarity to the issues and finding ways to make changes that make a difference."

Alexander Gonzalez, the Summit's keynote speaker, served more than three decades as a professor and education leader, including the last 12 years as the seventh permanent president of California State University, Sacramento, one of the largest universities in the 23-campus California State University system. Gonzalez, the first person in his family to graduate from college, devoted his career to ensuring greater opportunities for students.

Before addressing what he believes it means to be a diverse organization in higher education, Gonzalez offered some statistics. He said that by 2025, half of all the toddlers in the U.S. will be children of color and that today, in California, every-other-child born is Latino.
 
"Diversity does, and will continue to play an important role in your future as these changes continue to have a direct impact on education," Gonzalez said.

He added that, given recent national events, including those that happened at the University of Missouri, race and diversity is a leading topic on college campuses as proven by a survey of university presidents by the American Council of Higher Education.

The premise of Gonzalez's talk revolved around the need to look at diversity much more closely than just the mechanistic approach reported by publications like U.S. News & World Report.

"A campus can be diverse ethnically but without including a number of people in the life of campus: it's just a lot of people in the same space," Gonzalez said. "A sense of belonging to an institution is a key factor and it is especially important to low-income students."

Gonzalez believes diversity on a college campus is an incredible asset -- one that builds a stronger society and one that is more tolerant.

"It's healthy for society to be heterogeneous in its outlook," he said. "Being in a diverse setting on a campus prepares students for the future. Diversity is helping our students become global citizens with the perspective of the world."

One resounding theme throughout the conference, was the need to identifying students' and faculty's unique needs and perspectives, which allows for everyone to be successful. To do this, Gonzalez suggested faculty learn to better deal with students who are nontraditional, be sensitive to cultural and other differences, guard against their own biases and learn to recognize when diversity should affect curriculum.

Showing their support for diversity initiatives taking place across higher education in the state, Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents Rick Trachok, Cedric Crear, Jason Geddes, Kevin Melcher and Chancellor Dan Klaich were also in attendance. Klaich and Crear delivered remarks at the event, discussing what is taking place at the system level to affect diversity.

"Our gap between white and nonwhite enrollment has closed, but there is still a 20 percent gap in achievements and awards," Klaich said. "That gap has to close."

Recently, in a letter to University faculty and staff, University President Marc Johnson also addressed the topic of diversity.

"Diversity is at the core of our educational mission as a University," Johnson's letter said. "By creating opportunities for student learning that are directly related to a campus environment that values diversity, equity and inclusion, we become a better University - one that respects, supports and values all members of its diverse learning community. We are currently building a foundation that entails planning and programming that will help ensure that diversity, inclusivity and equity are woven into the life of our campus."

The Northern Nevada Diversity Summit was organized by members of the Summit Organizing Committee and Cultural Diversity Committee. It was sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada; University English Department; Great Basin College; Human Development and Family Studies; Joe Crowley Student Union; KUNR; Renown; Truckee Meadows Community College; University of Nevada Education Association; University of Nevada, Reno and Western Nevada College.

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