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Diversity and Inclusion Conference to focus on forging a brighter future for everyone

Diversity & Inclusion Conference 2022

Students, activists and educators will gather to discuss social justice issues in higher education

More than 160 students, activists and educators from Florida colleges and universities will gather to discuss social justice issues in higher education at the third annual Diversity & Inclusion Conference on February 19.

Hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) at the USF St. Petersburg campus, the virtual conference will focus on the theme of “Merging our Past & Present to Forge a Brighter Future,” aiming to enhance learning and understanding around concepts of diversity, inclusion and social justice.

The workshops will cover issues on resiliency, racial battle fatigue and celebrating excellence. Participants will discuss how they’ve adapted to difficult circumstances while also dealing with race-related stress.

“When the pandemic first hit us, it hit us hard. A lot was happening. The Black Lives Matter movement was higher than ever, and Asian hate was happening within the Asian community,” said DeWayne Anderson, assistant program director of Student Life and Engagement with OMA. “We wanted to merge our past with where we’re at today and discuss how we come together as a community, so we don’t have to go through those things again.”

Anderson believes that progress is being made on the race relations front, but we have a long way to go.

“Through all of that turmoil, a lot of good has happened, and we want to celebrate that. We want to celebrate the achievements of our students and professionals and the work they are doing on our campuses.”

The pre-conference will start on February 18 with guest speaker Micah E. Johnson, an assistant professor of Mental Health Law and Policy at USF. He is also an author, scientist, activist and performance artist whose work centers around childhood trauma, behavioral health and juvenile justice.

Johnson created a multi-medium artistic work entitled Never Had a Friend, featuring a one-person theatre show, a picture book, an audio play, a TEDx talk and a novel that discusses trauma, homelessness and compassion for the less fortunate. He will perform this one-person show outside the Snell/William House Courtyard from 5pm-8pm, with guests attending in-person or virtually.

On February 19, the full-day virtual conference from 8am-5pm will include two keynote speakers. Tristen Johnson is a diversity and education specialist for Moffitt Cancer Center. Her identity as a Black woman has given her life experiences that she uses to center other Black women in critical conversations about equity and justice. 

Johnson helped create the Diversity & Inclusion Conference on the USF St. Petersburg campus as the assistant director of the OMA in 2020. The inaugural conference brought together approximately 200 participants.

The second keynote speaker is Angela E. Batista, who is a coach, author, speaker and diversity equity and inclusion strategist. Batista’s experience includes nearly three decades of service in leadership and management roles in higher education, K-12 and non-profit settings. She will discuss how to take courageous actions to design and implement inclusive leadership, solve dilemmas, confront bias and enhance organizational culture.

The day will also include approximately twenty presentations that will allow participants to engage in important conversations surrounding diversity and inclusion, with the goal of bringing back lessons learned to their jobs or campuses.

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