In working to create dialogue and further educate students, Midland University hosted its Inclusion and Equity Summit April 17th in the Wikert Event Center. Students, faculty, and staff listened to a guest speaker along with sharing a meal and having discussions during small-group breakout sessions.
Kristina Cammarano, Vice President for Student Affairs & Chief Diversity Officer, believes the summit was an opportunity for students to express their views and learn more about inclusion and equity in a relaxed setting. “I hope our students were able to have a little fun while learning more about important topics like equity, inclusion, and belonging,” she said. “There was also a space for students to give us feedback on what we can do as Midland University to support belonging and inclusion on our campus, which will help us move forward with this important work.”
Andrea Joy Pearson served as keynote speaker. Pearson is a nationally recognized Belonging and Inclusion strategist and creative producer who is committed to helping herself, and others, walk in their power and utilize their space to live more full and successful lives. Her message to students was to work to create change on campus and support each student in their need to feel like they belong.
“I am so thankful for Andrea Joy sharing her time and talents with our campus community,” Cammarano said. “I hope her message of kindness, respect, and finding your voice resonated with our students and campus community. She stressed that everyone can affect positive change and support belonging, in both big and small ways. There is no one way to create a more inclusive and welcoming community, but we all have a role to play in that work.”
Serenity Durham Goree, president of the Black Student Union, said having dialogue between students of all races and backgrounds is crucial to building inclusion across campus. During the small-group discussions, students got to converse with other students who they may have never met before, or have had limited conversations with. “We were able to initiate open conversations while guiding our discussion in the right direction,” she said. “We got to know each other and asked a few questions. We discussed topics such as diversity at Midland, Malcolm X, and we even dug into the topic of uncomfortable conversations. Overall, I learned a lot from the students that joined in on our discussion, and I hope they gained some new information as well.”
Events like the Inclusion and Equity Summit are a great learning process for students to engage in meaningful conversations with other students about diversity and inclusion. “I think events like this are important to raise awareness, not only on our campus, but also our community because the root of the solution to all of the current controversies, in my opinion, is proper education,” Durham Goree said. “I believe all it takes is one conversation to open the eyes of an individual. Being educated on topics, as Andrea pointed out, is the most powerful thing someone could hold. I encourage students to attend events such as the Inclusion and Equity Summit, Black Student Union events, Global Warriors events, Hispanic Student Union events, Prism events, and more, to grow their education and spread their knowledge to their peers. As we are the generation that can conquer anything, I encourage our students to take the initiative to create change.”
Cammarano wants students to know everyone on campus is an important part of the process, and there are resources available if students have questions or are looking for ways to be a part of the solution. “I hope Andrea Joy’s remarks about speaking up and finding your voice resonated with our students,” she said. “I welcome any students to reach out if they are interested in getting more connected with our campus work centered around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”