Campus & Community

2016 Diversity Summit to focus on individual bias

In 2001, DU students founded the Diversity Summit with the goal of creating an accepting, supportive and inclusive environment for the University’s diverse population.

That commitment continues with the University’s 15th annual Diversity Summit, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, Jan. 21–22. (Due to overwhelming interest, registration for the event is closed.)

In the years since it first launched, the event has grown substantially and is now planned by a large cross-campus committee, led by the Center for Multicultural Excellence (CME).

Johanna Leyba, associate vice chancellor and executive director of CME, says that for this year’s summit, planners focused on what many campus community members see as a missing piece in DU’s efforts to be more welcoming and inclusive.

“While many individuals, departments and organizations have worked to embed practices that embody the theory of inclusive excellence at DU, we hear that more is needed to equip our community to have difficult conversations, own our individual biases and confront the resulting challenges,” Leyba says. “We are learning that, despite much effort over many years, students, staff and faculty from historically underrepresented communities are still feeling a sense of isolation, of not belonging, and are surviving their DU experience rather than being able to thrive by taking advantage of all that the DU experience has to offer.”

The theme of this year’s summit is “Beyond Good Intentions: Confronting My Bias to Change Our Community.” Unlike past years, when the summit focused on big-picture themes, this year’s emphasis is on the individual. “Many of the tensions we hear about stem from implicit bias and our inability as individuals to be able to embrace our own challenges,” Leyba explains. “At this year’s Diversity Summit, participants will be provided new tools to look inward, face their own challenges and support one another in making real change.”

The event kicks off Thursday night with a welcome reception, followed by a screening of the Rocky Mountain PBS documentary “Standing in the Gap,” which examines race and the achievement gap in Denver Public Schools, as well as how Colorado is working to overcome disparity. A talkback session with the film’s directors will follow.

Friday’s schedule includes addresses by keynote speakers Eddie Moore Jr., founder and program director of the White Privilege Conference and a consultant specializing in diversity and cultural competency training, and Damon Williams, senior vice president and chief educational and youth development officer at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Various workshop sessions are scheduled throughout the day as well.

Leyba acknowledges that the University still has a lot of work to do in regard to inclusive excellence and diversity, but she believes the campus community has the commitment needed to succeed. “There are a lot of willing students, staff, faculty and administrators who are ready to help continue to do what is needed to improve our campus,” Leyba says.

After this year’s Diversity Summit, she hopes to hear that attendees are able to recognize when they have failed to make others feel supported and then change their approach to create a more welcoming environment. She believes that once we are able to recognize we all have bias, we can begin to change our behavior. “We have to not be afraid of saying we all own a piece of how welcoming our campus is or isn’t.”

Registration is closed for this year’s summit; learn more about the event at the Diversity Summit website.



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