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2017 Diversity Conference: It’s Our Time: Creating a World for All

Keynote Speaker: Shakti Butler

Shakti Butler, PhD, is Founder and President of World Trust Educational Services, a non-profit transformative educational organization. Rooted in love and justice, World Trust produces films, curricula, workshops and programs that are catalysts for institutional, structural and cultural change. Shakti is an inspirational facilitator, trainer and lecturer who is sought after by schools, universities, public and private organizations, and faith-based institutions. Dr. Butler has produced four documentaries: The Way Home; Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible; Light in the Shadows and Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity. These films form the core of World Trust’s teaching tools, and have experienced increased exposure — 23 million views of one clip alone — generating national dialogue and critical thinking that is impacting institutions and communities across the country. Most recently, Dr. Butler served as diversity consultant and advisor on the Disney animated film, Zootopia, which focuses on challenging bias and systemic inequity. Shakti’s work incorporates whole body learning through stories, art, movement and dialogue. Her current film/dialogue project, Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging, is intended to popularize a national conversation about justice, responsibility and healing.

Keynote Presentation Description
Irresistible Justice: Cultivating Joy as a Pathway to Equity
This transformative learning keynote session seeks to cultivate a deeper understanding of a systemic dance that produces inequities. The internal and external or structural components of racial inequity are self-perpetuating. For this reason the system of racialization is presented through a holistic framework. This is a deep call for union between the head and heart guided by the intrinsic longing for an analysis that promotes dialogue and union between the head and heart. The head inquires, recognizes, analyzes and strategizes ways to overcome disparities. The heart obliterates fear and connects us with others. This union naturally infuses our actions with our deepest held values. When it becomes paramount that we align our intelligence with a deep longing to be of service to one another in ways that rejoice over our mutual well being, we are actually cultivating joy. What can emerge from this alignment will allow us envision an inclusive world of belonging. This interactive dialogue keynote that highlight film clips from the project, “Cracking the Codes”, other World Trust film snippets and other film resources.

“It’s Our Time” aims to look to the past for wisdom, understand what barriers have been broken as well as those that still exist, and learn to unite our communities for the future. The University of Rochester as well as surrounding communities is representative of various communities with dynamic perspectives and philosophies. The guiding question for the 2017 University-wide Annual Diversity Conference is how can we use our collective energy to unite and create the world we wish to live in?

The overall objective of the diversity conference is for the University community and the Greater Rochester community to engage with diversity-related topics. Each year the conference highlights a theme to help guide the focus for the day. Diversity-related topics may involve, but are not limited to: race, class, gender, sexuality or orientation, religion, or age.

Owning Our Legacy

The City of Rochester is a part of the rich legacy of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. Their stories, leadership and dedication continue to impact lives today. Workshops within this category shall focus on any of the following:

  • An individual’s or group’s cultural/ethnic ancestry or history and the impact of their “stories” in relation to today
  • Exploring historical situations that have provided perspective and guidance on community coalition building: healthcare/medicine, arts/storytelling, business/economics, education, etc.

Breaking Barriers

Glass ceilings, increased tolerance, and mindfulness are a few words that identify what barriers have been broken over time. In particular, this year marks New York’s Centennial’s Celebration of Women’s Right to Vote. Workshops within this category shall focus on any of the following:

  • Exploration of aspects of social justice issues that have created societal change
  • Barriers are broken; different voices, perspectives or philosophies and opportunities of growth

Freedom to Heal

With distinct markers of similarity and difference through our respective communities, how we heal can be vital in creating the world in which we want to live. Workshops within this category shall focus on any of the following:

  • Creating an inclusive learning environment for school settings, local communities, and/or trainings with staff, faculty, etc.
  • Creating and functioning within a culturally humble environment
  • Striving to heal broken systems (i.e. health disparities)


Shakti Butler

Clips from Cracking the Codes

Joy DeGruy, A Trip to the Grocery Store
This clip features Dr. Joy DeGruy author of Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome. To learn more Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity film & conversation guide please visit

Unconscious Bias
This clip features Barbie-Danielle DeCarlo, Rinku Sen, Suzanne LePeintre, Tilman Smith, Tim Wise, Robin Parker, and Yuko Kodama. To learn more Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity film & conversation guide please visit

History, Identity and Culture
Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, film and conversation guide. This clip features interviews with Ericka Huggins, Hugh Vasquez, Josh Begley and Jacquelyn Featherston.

2017 Diversity Conference Workshops

Owning Our Legacy (10:15am – 11:45am)

A Population in Flux: Immigration, the University of Rochester and Beyond

Presenter(s): Cary Jensen, University of Rochester Senior Counsel & Frank A. Novak, Esq., Harter Secrest & Emery LLP

Workshop Overview: The University of Rochester community interacts with foreign nationals every day: they are academic colleagues, students, co-workers. They are an integral part of campus life and bring diverse voices to the university. But how did they get here legally? And how do they stay? The answer involves a system that is little-known and understood, and one that rarely achieves headline news. The immigration system that allows them to stay and work in the U.S. is made up of labyrinthine laws and regulations, not to mention arcane quotas and backlogs.

Art Force 5 Art-Activism Teaches History While Creating Our Future

Presenter(s): Dan Napolitano, Alfred University & Mawia Elawad, Art Force 5

Workshop Overview: “Unite Rochester” recipients Art Force 5 have traveled the country facilitating community-based art which responds to campus conflicts and/or honors our past. In March, they collaborated with five other NYS colleges to build awareness of the 1917 Silent Parade with plans to present this work in NYC for July’s 100th anniversary. Workshop participants will be given the formulas and theories necessary to replicate such art-activism on their campus, with no artistic skills necessary.

Diversity in Greek Life

Presenter(s): Rachel Farr, University of Rochester Undergraduate Student

Workshop Overview: Rachel Farr, a student at the University of Rochester, will be opening the program with some thoughts on the history of Greek life as well as the direction that Greek organizations are beginning to head for this generation of students and for future generations. Then, a panel consisting of eight students of various identities from numerous Greek organizations on campus will speak about their experiences as members of the Greek community and the issues that need to be addressed within the Greek community. There will be an opportunity for audience questions.

Owning Our Truths: Exploring Personal Identity in the Context of U.S. Culture Past, Present & Future

Presenter(s): Tiffany Taylor Smith, University of Rochester Alum & Beth Olivares, Kearns Center

Workshop Overview: What is your cultural identity? Where does your narrative begin? How has the social construction of identity in the U.S. influenced what you know about your history? Sharing your story and listening to the stories of others increases our cultural awareness, improves relationships and strengthens our communities.

Teaching Sensitive Topics: Using Racial-Ethnic Identity Development Models to Inform Instruction & Intervention

Presenter: Dr. Ronke Tapp, UR Counseling Center

Workshop Overview: Many years ago, as an energetic, idealistic, and somewhat naïve new professor, I undertook the task of developing diversity focused introductory psychology course. My goal was to “simply” include current and historical diversity related examples and applications along with the classic ones. There was nothing “simple” about it. My experiences taught me A LOT about how emotionally loaded diversity issues were for our students (yes, even today), and how their reactions to the course content impacted every aspect of the process of teaching. It impacted their ability to accept, integrate, apply, and recall the information presented… in essence, their ability to effectively learn. In this presentation I will share what I learned through this experience and how it has helped me to teach sensitive topics more effectively. A primary focus of this presentation will be how applying Racial-Ethnic Identity development models can assist instructors to understand and anticipate student reactions, and more effectively structure instruction, responses, and interventions to improve student learning.

Unapologetically Muslim: Supporting College Students Identity

Presenter(s): Yasmin and Ayaa Elgoharry, UR Graduate Students

Workshop Overview: Research has discovered that Muslim Students are the highest discriminated against on college campuses, yet they are the least researched minority group within higher education (Cole & Ahmadi, 2003).

Breaking Barriers (1:45pm – 3:15pm)

Eek! What now? Uncertainty, ‘Hot’ Topics, and How to Build Bridges Across Difference

Presenter(s): Megan Marsh, Doctoral Psychology Intern and University of Rochester Counseling Center

Workshop Overview: You know those spots in tough conversations when everyone begins shifting fitfully and avoiding eye contact? We will zoom into these pivotal moments, deconstructing them in light of the psychology of uncertainty and the physiology of stress, and practice ways to use them in service of changing hearts. This workshop is grounded in principles of cultural humility and will balance didactic and experiential pedagogy. Participants will leave having experienced a process that they themselves can use to facilitate conversations that serve as bridges and prevent walls.

Interfaith Relations: The Globalization of God

Presenter(s): Rev. Dr. C. Denise Yarbrough, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Rochester plus student presenters who attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2015

Workshop Overview: The global interfaith movement has exploded in the 21st century. The Parliament of the World’s Religions and the United Religions Initiative are two important global interfaith organizations in which the University of Rochester participates. Come learn how you can join this worldwide movement to build bridges of understanding and compassion.

Mass Incarceration: Scholarly Responses in Theory and Practice

Presenter(s): Joshua Dubler, Assistant Professor of Religion and Classics and Kevin Fiscella, Professor of Family Medicine

Workshop Overview: A critical look into the state of incarceration in the United States, and an introduction to some of the ways that U R faculty are working to ameliorate this social crisis.

Shining the Light on Hidden Bias in Ourselves and Environments: Developing an Implicit Bias Curriculum for UR Campus

Presenter(s): Kit Miller, MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence & Jessica Guzman-Rea, Paul J. Burgett Intercultural Center

Workshop Overview: In 2015, a team of diversity trainers responded to student concerns and created a curriculum to help the campus community recognize and address implicit bias. This workshop will review best practices in training implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and cultural humility, the creation of the UR curriculum, and results of its implementation.

Transgender Issues, Universal Realities and the Power of Sharing

Presenter(s): Gabrielle Hermosa

Workshop Overview: Transgender people face a variety of legal, social, medical and economical challenges living in a society that doesn’t understand what transgender means.

Transgender people and issues continue to gain visibility in mainstream society. Progress has been met with significant pushback, fear mongering and deceptive propaganda put forth by a small but significant number of influential people in leadership positions.

People fear what they don’t understand and attack what they fear. In an educated, enlightened society, there will be nothing left to fear or prevent people from living authentically, realizing their full potential, building strong, inclusive, collaborative communities and making the world a happier, healthier, better place for everyone. All boats are lifted by a rising tide.

Sharing is a powerful way to replace misconception and fear with understanding, empathy, respect and support. Please allow me an opportunity to demonstrate…

Tupac Shakur, The T.H.U.G., a New Perspective

Presenter(s): Carolyn Massey, Faculty from SUNY Empire State College

Workshop Overview: Iconic Hip Hop gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur attributes many of the dilemmas of African Americans and other marginalized groups to what he considers the T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. philosophy. The workshop discusses the theory and supports an agenda for healing, building, and restoring.

On the Voice: Identity, Difference, Expression

Presenter(s): Tavia Nyong’o, Professor of African American Studies, American Studies and Theatre Studies at Yale University

Workshop Overview: This workshop is the keynote presentation for the Susan B. Anthony Institute’s Graduate Conference; the title of Dr. Nyong’o’s talk is Hacking the Color Line: Black Lives Matter, Code-Switching, and the Entanglements of the Performative. Code-switching has historically been central to African-American culture. In the wake of the post-racial era (an idea recently disavowed by President Obama in his farewell address) what is the future of code-switching and double-consciousness as oppositional performative strategies? The recent phenomena of Black Twitter (and more generally, of digitally-encoded assemblages of intersectional Black feminism) has been countered by the rise of an anti-Black Twitter, which has claimed many targets for harassment and helped elect a president. Is online activism fated to be drowned out by this “white noise”? Or will code-switching be reinvented for a digitally networked and increasingly post-literate age? This talk will investigate these questions in dialogue with recent queer and black feminist theories of hacking, coding, and entanglement.

Freedom to Heal (3:30pm – 5:00pm)

Creating Space. Making Connections.

Presenter(s): Lomax R. Campbell, House of Shu Wellness Center and Ballet Afrikana: Dance Prep Academy

Workshop Overview: Kemetic (Ancient Egyptian) Yoga is an ancient system of yoga enlightenment, redeveloped in the 1970s by Dr. Asar Ha-pi and Master Yirser Ra Hotep. Djedhi Bennu, a Certified Kemetic Yoga Teacher registered with Yoga Alliance (RYT® 200), will facilitate a hands-on training exploring Kemetian history and culture, standing and chair yoga postures, deep breathing, meditation, aromatherapy, and nutrition. By the end of the session, participants will know the importance of balance in all facets of life and be equipped with a range of initial practical skills for managing stress at home and work environments. Proactive participants will be encouraged to pursue further study in each area of interest.

Healing the Social-Cultural Trauma within Human Service and Educational Systems

Presenter(s): Dr. Kiah Nyame, University of Rochester Alum

Workshop Overview: This workshop/session will take a contemporary and historical look at the theory of social-cultural trauma while examining practical ways human service and educational systems can provide culturally competent services that help to promote individual and family healing among service recipients.

In the Thick of It – Using Interactive Theatre to Explore Issues of Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

Presenter(s): Jodi Beckwith and Allison Roberts, Impact Interactive, LLC plus Alexa Scott-Flaherty, Willis Brooks, Shawn Gray, Christian Soto, Story Post, Ashley Garcell, Tamra Cherubin and Vince Dalba

Workshop Overview: Through activities and discussion, this interactive workshop explores how differences in race, gender, socioeconomic status, learning styles, and ability can create barriers to student participation in the classroom. Participants will watch a short, scripted scene (developed in conjunction with the U of R Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and UofR Chemistry Department) where a young instructor struggles to manage the diverse needs of her students. When the tensions heighten, the scene freezes, and participants are invited to interact with the characters to learn more about their thoughts, feelings, motivations and backgrounds. Together, the group will discuss and identify skills and strategies for creating a safer, more inclusive classroom environment.

*This workshop is appropriate for anyone, but is particularly geared toward faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, team leaders and others who work in educational settings.

Look Beyond the Obvious

Presenter(s): Joseph Searles and Kesha Carter, Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield, plus Sady Fischer

Workshop Overview: This course explores diversity from many individual dimensions giving way for participants to adopt more inclusive personal and professional approaches.

Mommy Issues: How Reconnecting to the Motherland has a Protective Effect on African Americans

Presenter(s): Dr. Ronke Tapp, University of Rochester Counseling Center

Workshop Overview: Using examples from the presenter’s travels to Ghana, community and professional involvements, clinical work, etc., this presentation will examine Collective Self Esteem and Positive Racial Socialization as protective buffers against the impacts of experiences of microaggressions, discrimination, and perceived and real threats to sense of self, community, contribution, and worth.

The Audacity to Dream: Undocumented Students Experience in Higher Education

Presenter(s): Kevin Graham, University of Rochester Graduate Student and Haydi Torres, University of Rochester Undergraduate Student

Workshop Overview: The world of undocumented students often resides in the dark and is riddled with misconceptions and policies that sometimes villainizing this community. This workshop will offer counter-narrative and resources that are aimed at informing participants understanding/supporting the student population.

Previous Conferences. For more information, please contact Ashley N. Campbell, Director of Diversity Programming