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Conference Held Virtually to Address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education

Conference Held Virtually to Address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Higher Education

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In the era of COVID, many conferences and events have dramatically adapted how they operate. At OU, the annual National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), the largest conference of its kind in the country, successfully redesigned this year’s event to a virtual format to allow members to attend from the comfort and safety of their homes.

For more than 30 years, OU’s Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies has coordinated the NCORE conference, which focuses on creating and sustaining comprehensive institutional change designed to improve racial and ethnic relations on college campuses. This year’s virtual conference attracted over 1,250 attendees representing higher education institutions from across the nation. 

“The dialogue on race, ethnicity, inclusion and equitable campuses has always been an important part of NCORE, and finding a way to continue these important conversations was critical,” said Jane Irungu, executive director of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies and associate provost of inclusive faculty excellence. “Connection 2020: An NCORE Experience provided this opportunity virtually through the poster sessions, concurrent sessions, open forums and keynote speeches.”

The conference showcased four keynote speakers, interactive sessions that addressed critical topics affecting campuses and communities, and a virtual exhibit hall.

Keynote speakers were Dolores Huerta, a labor leader, women’s advocate and civil rights activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers; Andrew Jolivétte, an internationally recognized researcher, educator, author, poet, speaker, socio-cultural critic and aspiring chef; Amer Ahmed, an organizational strategist who helps institutions and leaders address diversity and inclusion, equity and intercultural development; and Melina Abdullah, a recognized expert on race, gender, class and social movements.  

“We continue to receive feedback about the timeliness of the presentations, which addressed diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education as well as other institutions,” said Belinda Biscoe, interim senior associate vice president for University Outreach and the College of Continuing Education. “Connection 2020 also focused on current issues such as systemic racism, COVID-19 and other social justice issues in the academy and around the world.”

Also, as part of the conference, Dr. George Henderson, professor emeritus who founded OU’s Human Relations Department, was honored with the NCORE Suzan Shown Harjo Systemic Social Justice Award, which recognizes the work of an individual whose actions have been transformational on social justice issues or race, ethnicity and sovereignty at the systemic level by affecting laws, policies, organizational structures and community practices.

Dr. Henderson joined OU in 1967 as its third full-time African American faculty member. When he was appointed dean of the College of Liberal Studies in 1996, he became the first African American dean on the Norman campus. He is a race relations and civil rights scholar and has been a leader in promoting ethnic diversity and interracial understanding on the OU campus and throughout the country.

By Mackenzie Scheer

Article Published:  Wednesday, July 15, 2020