Warner Fosters Dialogue on Diversity, Inclusion at University Conference

The University of Rochester’s second annual diversity conference gave participants an opportunity to explore how diversity and inclusion are being addressed across campus and, for some, an opportunity to showcase their expertise and research through various workshops and discussion groups. The Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development was among the academic divisions that led workshops at the University-wide conference.
 Dena Phillips Swanson
The 2011 conference, themed Why Diversity?, attracted more than 250 attendees that included administrators, trustees, faculty, staff, alumni, and students from the University.  It focused on sharing best practices and innovative strategies for creating a diverse and inclusive campus by improving communications, examining organizational policies, and encouraging programs that strengthen the University community. Associate Professors Dena Phillips Swanson and Nancy Ares, from the Warner School, served as facilitators for two of the 18 discussion groups that took place during the conference.
The first, a workshop titled “Identifying and Preventing Microaggressions,” explored how everyday verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative insults toward non-dominant groups operate in classrooms and on campus. In an effort to move toward a more inclusive University, Swanson and Ares used recent research, a media clip from Ugly Betty, and various vignettes to lead discussions on identifying and mitigating microaggressions across various units on campus. They also discussed how these exchanges leave recipients feeling undermined or demoralized and strategies for establishing supportive and professionally enhancing work contexts.
The second, a panel discussion titled “No Need for Redeemers: Conducting Scholarly, Asset-Based Community Research,” focused on the value and role research on diversity and inclusion has in higher education. The panel featured Warner School faculty and students as they discussed ways their research is conducted in conjunction with the communities they study. The purpose of this session was to present and discuss strategies used to conduct academic scholarship that incorporates community members rather than research being conducted as a service to the community or as a way to “fix” or “save” them. Warner faculty demonstrated through their research how diversity and inclusion are integral to their scholarship and work in academia. Ares and Swanson’s presentation was followed by a poster session that highlighted specific research projects and culminated in a discussion of the strengths, challenges, and considerations for building an academic career when they challenge traditional approaches to scholarship. Warner faculty members Edward Brockenbrough, Andrew Wall, Stephanie Waterman, Judy Marquez Kiyama, and Donna Harris were joined by Warner students Kristen Emery and Melissa Raucci for this panel discussion and poster session.
Materials from both workshops are available on the University’s website: www.rochester.edu/diversity/annualconference/2011/index.html
  Photo of Nancy Ares
“Warner’s representation at this conference reflects the School’s strong commitment to diversity and inclusion on campus,” says Ares, who also serves as a University faculty diversity officer and chair of the Warner School’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. “As we strive to foster a learning community that represents and builds on the rich diversity of human experiences, backgrounds, cultures, histories, ideas, and ways of living, Warner’s participation at this conference was another important step in working toward this goal. We will continue to look for ways to encourage and engage in meaningful dialogue and action around issues of diversity and inclusion.”
Other sessions at the annual diversity conference focused on campus climate and culture, the graduate student experience, the impact of support staff on student life, diversity in learning styles, and underrepresented minorities in business. The daylong conference, organized by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, took place earlier this spring at various River Campus and Medical Center Campus locations.
To learn more about diversity and inclusion at Warner, contact Nancy Ares at nancy.ares@rochester.edu or visit www.rochester.edu/warner/warnerataglance/diversity.html.

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Tags: Dena Swanson, diversity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Edward Brockenbrough, Nancy Ares