University of Rochester

EVENT: Rochester Diversity Conference Explores Strength in Differences

April 5, 2013

The University of Rochester's fourth annual diversity conference, Our Differences, Our Strength, will explore how the diverse identities that exist on campus can be source of strength in an academic community. Held on Friday, April 12, more than 400 administrators, trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members will gather for a series of workshops that challenge attendees to think of ways to foster innovation through diversity, enhance inclusion practices, and transform points of controversy into positive interactions.

"The Supreme Court is likely soon to announce a major decision with respect to diversity in undergraduate admissions, a decision that may have a profound effect on colleges and universities," said President Joel Seligman. "That this year's theme recognizes the strengths that come with building an inclusive learning environment is a clear example of our commitment to diversity and the progress we are making."

Organized through the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the day-long event opens with a keynote address by Lani Guinier, prominent civil rights attorney and the first tenured African-American woman professor at Harvard Law School. In 2008, Guinier also was one of the first recipients of Frederick Douglass medal awarded by the University of Rochester's Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies.

The author of many articles and op-ed pieces on democratic theory, political representation, educational equity, and issues of race and gender, Guinier has written The Tyranny of the Majority (Free Press, 1994) about issues of political representation; Who's Qualified? (Beacon Press, 2001) written with Susan Sturm about moving beyond affirmative action to reconsider the ways in which colleges admit all students; and The Miner's Canary (Harvard Press, 2002), written with Gerald Torres about the experience of people of color as a warning or "canary" signaling larger institutional inequities. A graduate of Radcliffe College of Harvard University and Yale Law School, Guinier has received numerous awards and is the recipient of 11 honorary degrees from schools which include Smith College, Spelman College, Swarthmore College, and the University of the District of Columbia.

"I am thrilled that this outstanding, prominent intellectual will be able to set the stage for our daylong conference," said Dr. Vivian Lewis, vice provost for faculty development and diversity and deputy to the president. "Professor Guinier has contributed a wealth of material that will help inform our dialogue about the important issues facing our university, community, and nation, as we strive toward achieving the vision that differences are a source of strength."

This year's University-wide call for proposals for poster presentations and workshop sessions culled more than 30 entries that are related to the five conference tracks: legal/affirmative action, practicing inclusiveness, going global, celebrating diversity, and race in our community.

Two workshops will explore affirmative action and admissions processes, both at the undergraduate and medical school levels. Other workshops will discuss a multi-level approach to addressing racial discrimination in Rochester, share the strengths and experiences of deaf professionals in the workplace, and offer tools and techniques that can be used to engage in conversations that foster a climate of inclusiveness.

The poster session will showcase efforts by faculty, staff, and students that advance diversity and inclusion at Rochester. Running from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., the poster session features presentations about the new Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship affinity group, the UR Teen Health & Success Partnership, the Rochester Youth Year Fellowship, and the Human Library held at Rush Rhees Library. It also includes academic research that looks at soft tissue injuries in victims of color, community-based doula services for underserved populations, and the experience of transgender, genderqueer, and non-gender conforming individuals in clinical settings.

Participants of the conference also are invited to attend the Second Annual Rainbow Lecture on LGBTQI Issues, which immediately follows the poster session, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Welles-Brown Room of Rush Rhees Library. The lecture, which is sponsored by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies, features theologian, attorney, and ordained minister Rev. Dr. Patrick Cheng. A seminary professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., Cheng will discuss the field of queer theology and the rethinking of Christian doctrines. He is a regular contributor to the Religion and the Gay Voices sections of the Huffington Post and is the author of From Sin to Amazing Grace: Rediscovering Queer Christ (2012) and Rainbow Theology: Bridging Race, Sexuality, and Spirit (2013), which will be on sale at the lecture.

Organizers encourage guests and those who cannot attend to follow the activities on Twitter using the hashtag #urdiversity. Registration for the conference, which ends Friday, April 5, can be completed by online, questions regarding registration can be directed to Kurt Zeller at To RSVP for the Rainbow Lecture, email