University of Rochester

EVENT: Conference Aims to "Change the Conversation" about Diversity & Inclusion at the University of Rochester

April 19, 2012

This Friday, April 20, the University of Rochester will bring together representatives from all the institution's constituencies for the third annual University-wide diversity conference: Change the Conversation. More than 400 administrators, trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members will gather to discuss programs and policies related to diversity and inclusion on Rochester's campuses.

"The theme of this conference reflects our continued commitment to diversity as a core value of our University," said President Joel Seligman. "Our challenge is to be welcoming to all in our community, including those with intellectually diverse views. A university should be a sanctuary in which all are comfortable in a broad conversation regardless of race, gender, intellectual viewpoint, sexual orientation, or other relevant differences."

The conference, which has seen a large increase in participation by not just members of the University, but also by alumni and the Greater Rochester community, is being organized through the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity. The day-long event opens with a keynote address by Claude Steele, the I. James Quillen Dean for the School of Education at Stanford University.

The keynote address will be livestreamed online beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Steele's expertise lies in the theory of stereotype threat, which he developed while at Stanford. The theory describes the effects that negative stereotypes can have on the behavior and performance of the individual being stereotyped. He has published articles in numerous scholarly journals, including the American Psychologist, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, as well as the 2010 book Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do.

"This conference builds upon past conferences, which focused on how we as a community define diversity and inclusion and why it should be an important core value of our institution," said Dr. Vivian Lewis, vice provost for faculty development and diversity and deputy to the president. "This year, the conference aims to shift the conversation to ways in which we can demonstrate and implement those values every day."

In an effort to generate dialogue about diversity and inclusion in advance of the conference, the Diversity Conference Planning Committee issued a University-wide call for proposals for poster presentations and workshop sessions that are related to the four conference tracks: research related to diversity, dimensions of diversity, creating an inclusive University community, and building bridges beyond campus. The committee selected 15 workshops from a pool of nearly 30 proposals.

The workshops explore issues facing the LGBTQI community, the role of language diversity in an organization, the results of a five-year long chemistry study group program designed to support underrepresented minority, low-income, and first generation college students during their first two years of chemistry, and a performance and panel discussion with the student cast and production crew of For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. Additional topics include the work being done by the University's various affinity groups and the experiences of international graduate students on campus, among other topics.

The poster session, which is a new addition to the conference format, will showcase efforts by faculty, staff, and students that advance diversity and inclusion at Rochester. Running from 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., the poster session features presentations on the Pride Alliance's Safe Space training program, the University Information Technology High School Summer Internship Program with the Rochester City School District, a study about the grammatical and syntactic roots and historical development of contemporary African American English (AAE), and the Advocacy Services for Abused Deaf Victim's recently created "Deaf Community Accountability Wheel," among others.

At 5 p.m. in the Eisenberg Rotunda at the Simon School of Business, President Joel Seligman, joined by members of the University's Board of Trustees, will close the conference with a community-wide celebration.