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The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will host the first Diversity Leadership Conference Feb. 22 on the third floor of the J.W. Jones Student Union, which is available and free to attend for all Northwest students.

Associate Provost of Diversity and Inclusion Justin Mallett said while there are some diversity and inclusion-related trainings and conferences in the region, there are none available to all Northwest students. The conference is also open to faculty and staff for a $20 fee.

Mallett said the overarching goal of the conference is to start the process of developing foundational knowledge about diversity and inclusion.

“Diversity and inclusion isn’t just about race and ethnicity,” Mallett said. “We wanted the students to see all the components related to diversity and inclusion, whether it’s nationality, whether it’s sexuality, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s gender.”

The breakout sessions will be hosted by Northwest employees, including History Associate Professor Elyssa Ford’s session about women’s suffrage, Health Sciences Associate Professor Jackie Kibler’s session about burnout and Director of Partnerships and Placement Jill Brown’s session about social media.

In addition to the diversity and inclusion staff, the conference is being organized by a committee of faculty and staff including the workshop leaders, Health Sciences Instructor Sarah Creason, Faculty Senate President Jenny Rytting and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Kori Hoffmann.

Mallett said the conference is an opportunity for workshop leaders and organizers as much as attendees.

“Really, truthfully, all of our presenters should be faculty and staff that are here,” Mallett said. “It gives them a chance to gain experience doing presentations at conferences; it’ll help them in their tenure process.”

Dinner is provided as part of the conference, followed by a keynote address from Georgetown University Sociology Professor Micheal Eric Dyson.

While there is a fee for University employees to attend, Geography Professor Mark Corson has offered to pay for any faculty in his department to attend, and the B.D. Owens Library is paying for its staff to attend the conference.

Corson said both his upbringing in San Francisco, which he described as a true cultural melting pot, and his 31 years in the Army, part of which was spent in the Middle East, have led him to see a need for diversity education.

“I am a political geographer by trade, and I understand that for a country to stay together it must have two things: a reason for being and forces that bring people together must overcome forces that tear them apart,” Corson said in an email. “I firmly believe Americans must either embrace diversity to make us stronger, or our future as a country is at risk.”

Corson said he encourages other unit leaders to pay for their colleagues to attend the conference.

The conference is only available to Northwest students and employees this year, but Mallett said he hopes for it to become the top diversity conference in the region.

“Even high school students should be coming; the teachers within Nodaway County in those school districts should be coming to get these sessions,” Mallett said. “It should also turn into a professional development for people in professional positions. That’s my big dream.”

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