Sep 222005
Authors: Lee Newville

Next Monday will kick-start the fifth annual Diversity Conference, which brings in speakers from around the country who have contributed to this year's theme: access and opportunity.

The conference offers a chance for students and the community to learn about the ways diversity impacts individuals' experiences.

"The Diversity Conference has become a premier event for our community, providing important learning opportunities for all of us to better understand the issues, challenges and responsibilities we share as members of a diverse society," said CSU President Larry Penley in a press release. "I encourage all in our community to take advantage of this opportunity to explore challenging issues and interact with some of our nation's leading thinkers on these issues."

The conference begins Monday on the Lory Student Center Plaza with a welcome address. All workshops and keynote addresses are free and open to both students and the public. Immediately following Penley's remarks, a "cultural extravaganza" will be showcased on the Plaza featuring music, dance and other culturally influenced arts.

Tying in to the theme of the conference, workshops will be available focusing on the opportunities in education, access to health services, as well as media and government resources for people of all backgrounds. Other workshops include inter-cultural communication and exploration of educational opportunities.

Each day the conference features a keynote address from leaders around the nation who were selectively picked by a committee in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity.

Monday's keynote address, "With Justice for All," will be delivered by Morris Dees , founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is committed to fighting white supremacists and other hate groups around the United States while promoting tolerance education.

Aisha Williams, a senior human development and family science major who works at the Black Student Services , said the presentation "should be interesting. He played a big part in taking down the Ku Klux Klan. It may be controversial, but the information may be insightful to everyone as well."

In searching for speakers, chair of the Diversity Committee Arlene Nedebog said, "part of what we're looking for is what's going on currently in the world, what's going on it the community, what's going on on campus and what do we think is something that students, faculty and staff on campus would be interested in."

Other keynote addresses range in topics from ethical decision making in journalism to fighting to restore Native American culture and heritage.

Nedebog said the conference acts as a median to "enhance cultural awareness, knowledge and skills. What I hope it will accomplish is an opportunity for people to enter into a dialogue and learn about our differences and similarities."

Another function of the conference is to promote tolerance.

Although Williams said she doesn't think racism is a big problem on campus, she said while "there may be ignorance, I think people are willing to learn. It would be great if everyone would come out and participate in at least one event."

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