Campus-wide support boosts diversity symposium

Event returns to in-person attendance, expands to two days

| Author: Eric Baerren | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

Support from across Central Michigan University’s campus will help the Campus Diversity Symposium deliver an experience its organizer believes fulfills its true potential.

The symposium, set for April 26-27 in the Rotunda and adjacent rooms in Bovee University Center, will feel like a real conference, said Nikita Murry, director of diversity education with the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Contributions from different campus departments expanded what the symposium could offer, she said. Her office received more programming offers than they had time slots.

“It’s a good, new problem to have,” she said. “We have diversity within the presenters and the topics they will cover. The combination of students, faculty and staff who are part of the program help reflect the academic mission of CMU.”

The symposium aims to provide insights into the involvement of the Central Michigan University community in research and activism for diverse populations. Additionally, Vice President Shawna Patterson-Stephens will kick off the event with remarks about “The State of Diversity at CMU.”

The two-day, late-April event will feature morning activities followed by themed afternoon breakout sessions, she said.

The afternoon sessions are organized into two different sets of presentations grouped around general concepts like “Privilege and Wellness” and “Social Justice and Belonging.” Each track includes four presentations delivered by people from different campus departments.

One of the afternoon sessions, hosted by the geography program, is a conversation about barriers. The purpose is to have a frank, open conversation that everyone can relate to and that answers the question, “How do you engage individuals with physical challenges in a real, authentic way,” she said.

Faculty members Lissa Schwander and Mary Senter from the School of Politics, Society, Justice & Public Service are hosting an interactive poverty simulation called The Virtual Cost of Poverty Experience. Schwander and Senter bring experience and expertise in social work and sociology, respectively.

The simulation gives participants a first-hand look at what it means to live in poverty. The cost of poverty connects to every facet of life, Murry said, from business to the arts.

“When you consider our seven colleges and the academic programs within them, it would be hard to identify a discipline where students, faculty and staff would not benefit from a greater understanding of poverty and its impact on how decisions are made.”

All events are open to the public, but The Virtual Cost of Poverty requires registration because seats are limited.

This year’s symposium is the first in-person event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The OIDEI held the symposium virtually in 2020, livestreamed but with no audience in 2021, and livestreamed with a limited audience in 2022.

Murry expressed excitement and nervousness about going back to face-to-face events.

“As useful as the technology is, at the end of the day, that virtual space is a little more passive compared to the energy and inspiration that results from physically being in the same room with somebody,” she said.

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