July 20, 2024

USU Eastern Hosts Inclusivity Conference

On Thursday Apr. 11 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., the Inclusivity Conference was held in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center and Geary Event Center for all to attend. The day was filled with engaging speakers, sessions, and important lessons. Cameron West, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, states, “The theme for the conference was Inclusive Excellence with a tagline of together we grow. We chose this because it is important to work together and collaborate to achieve a campus that is more inclusive and supportive for all.” 

 “The conference was set up in a way that allowed people to come and attend the various sessions at their time and availability. West also said. “We were able to have over 60 people register and participate in the various sessions both in person and through our live broadcast.” 

The day started in the JLSC with check-in and breakfast for all of the participants. At 10 a.m. the participants were invited to head over to the Geary Event Center for a short welcome and then hear from keynote speaker, Pinqy Ring. According to her biography on the Inclusive Excellence Conference website, “Born and bred in Chicago, Pinqy Ring first shook hands with the mic at age 15 when her love for learning hip hop songs turned into a curiosity to try it for herself. A tough childhood, troubled teens, and a catastrophic car accident all worked to mold the young artist into the powerful MC she is today. The accident (which left Pinqy in a coma), served as the defining turning point in her life as she realized that telling her story was paramount. Pinqy has captivated several audiences in her hometown, including the Taste of Chicago in 2017, and has rocked stages in Miami, Washington, Denver, Austin,  Houston…” 

After Ring’s speech, the group stayed in the Geary Event Center for a lesson in Inclusive Excellence in Teaching. The group heard from two speakers for this session: Dr. Sunshine Brosi, Associate Professor in the Wildland Resources Department, and Cristina Chirvasa, a senior dual majoring in Wildlife Ecology and Management and Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

     “Brosi is focused on student successes and attracting and retaining the broad demographic of student learners through culturally-revenant, problem-based learning.” According to the Inclusive Excellence Conference website writes. The website continues on with Chirvasa, “She is a researcher, community-engaged scholar, global engagement scholar, and student leader. Her research is focused on environmental changes and social inequalities, and she hopes to transform her results into equitable policy decisions.” 

     The group headed back to the JLSC to enjoy lunch provided by Dining and Event Services, and to enjoy a performance from breakdancers. After lunch, the session Inclusive Excellence in Research began. This session was led by Dr. Avery Edenfield, Center Director Associate Professor in English; Dr. Julia M. Gossard, Associate Dean for Research (CHaSS), Associate Professor of History; and Dallas Haws, Research Assistant; USU Learn Explore Design Lab  Dr. Gustavo Ovando-Montejo, Assistant Professor, Environment and Society. According to the event website,

     “This session [included] short talks from scholars whose work is intersectional in nature, followed by a Q&A from the audience. The session will then shift into a workshop, where each of the panelists will join a group of participants to reflect, evaluate, and synthesize for individual praxis. Finally, we will come back together to share our findings, with the goal of creating new knowledge that can impact our scholarship.” 

The group headed back over to the Geary Event Center to start their last session of the day. This session was about Inclusive Excellence in Programming.

     “In this workshop, participants will learn about the Shoshone and Hip Hop Culture and will explore ways they can collaborate with cultural organizations to promote inclusivity at USU and in our wider communities,” The website states. This session was led by Dr. Tasha Iglesias, lecturer for the Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research at Utah State University Sociology department at Salt Lake Community College and Southern New Hampshire University; Pinqy Ring, Puerto Rican Rapper; and Darren Parry, former Chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. Parry also serves on the Board of Directors for Utah Humanities and the PBS Utah. The conference was then closed.

     According to West, “The goals for the conference were for there to be engaging sessions devoted to inclusive excellence in teaching, research, and academic programming. This was a unique opportunity to learn, collaborate, and contribute to making our campus environment more inclusive and supportive for all.”