Diversity Summit 2018

More attendees and student participation than ever at fourth annual event

The Northern Nevada Diversity Summit presented "The reality of equity and diversity within higher education and the community."

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4/13/2018 | By: Natalie Fry |

The Joe Crowley Student Union saw nearly 520 attendees through its doors for the fourth annual Northern Nevada Diversity Summit Thursday, April 12, 2018.

The day included more than 30 workshops, panels and parallel sessions, including opening presenters, a poster session and two keynote speakers.

After the lunch break, more than 150 listened to keynote speaker Gina Ann Garcia, assistant professor in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research centers on issues of equality and diversity in higher education with an emphasis on understanding how Hispanic-Serving Institutions embrace and enact an organizational identity for serving minoritized populations. Her speech was titled "Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Moving from Diversity & Inclusion to Equity & Justice."

One of the Organizing Committee Members, Claudia Ortega-Lukas, graphic designer for Marketing and Communications and a Cultural Diversity Committee member, provided her take-aways from Garcia's presentation.

"As we strive to be and HSI institution, the list of things we need to work on is long," Ortega-Lukas said. "We need to avoid deficit narratives; be proactive, not reactive when dealing with negative climates for minoritized people; each campus unit should have it owns HSI project; census all Latinx associations and organizations on campus; scale up our ethnic studies so they touch mainstream populations but be careful not to overburden those units; encourage white populations to be allies in identifying wrongdoings and to speak up for those who can't or don't know how; and reward structures and behaviors that affect change of culture and what is 'normal.'"

The Summit's Goals:

  • Present challenges relating to equity and diversity within higher education and the community
  • Propose potential changes and/or solutions to the presented challenges within higher education and the community
  • Create a space for students, community members and higher education practitioners to share resources, programs and research related to the topic

Nearly 150 attendees also attended the evening key-note address with featured speaker Franchesca Ramsey, a social justice advocate, comedia, actress, writer, video blogger and host of the award-winning MTV web series Decoded. Her first book, "Well, That Escalated Quickly," will be published by Hachette/Grand Central this May. 

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"I was able to attend the whole summit and actually really appreciated that there were a lot of opportunities for discussion with presentations and speakers," student attendee Brittany Barnes said. "I really just overall liked the breakout sessions, those were by far my favorite. Being able to meet Franschesca Ramsey was super awesome, she is super down to earth and funny. Just her being able to put things into perspective, just like the story she started her presentation with the caterpillar and snail really put your own viewpoints in perspective. It makes the concept of privileged, in general, far more simplified."

Cultural Diversity Committee Co-Chair Geoffrey Green wanted participants to leave feeling that they were heard and that things are happening going forward. 

"Listening to researchers presenting their projects allowed the audience to learn about such projects and to also offer different angles of approaches and engagement," Green said. "Not only did the audiences learned about projects being worked on, and helped define pathways of success, but the presenters also learned from the audience and this interaction created a network of ideas and support. It was really great to see this happening."

More student attendees and presenters participated this year than in prior Diversity Summit events.

"The biggest reason why I came today is because of my current status as a senator-elect for ASUN," Blane Merkley, incoming ASUN College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources Senator, said. "To be a good servant for constituents is knowing and realizing some of the issues that they are facing and being knowledgeable on that. It certainly peaks the interest of me to start those kinds of conversations so that we can get the University in the direction it needs, the direction of suppressing racism on campus, creating a more inclusive campus environment, and ensuring more people feel safe. This is certainly a large issue many students are facing, especially regarding the last two semesters. So it's important to me in my role as a senator-elect and as a human being."

Ortega-Lukas provided a personal perspective from her participation at the summit. 

"The presenters did a great job engaging the audience in exercises that allowed them to explore different ways of addressing issues, responding to them, or understanding why some people may approach a subject in specific ways," she said. "It is clear, I think, that we need to do a better job listening to each other. We need to speak up. We need to be aware of what happens around us and be ready and willing to intervene if necessary (preventing microaggressions, abuse, disrespect, etc., from happening). We need to identify what is missing (peer mentoring system, for example) and advocate for implementation of what is missing." 

Event sponsors included the University of Nevada, Reno, Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Truckee Meadows Community College, Joe Crowley Student Union, Desert Research Institute, Western Nevada College, and Great Basin College.

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