Sep 222008
 
Authors: Shayna Grajo

A crowd of 400 high school students from across the state will join CSU students and community members today to attend the eighth annual CSU Diversity Conference, presenting the theme “Diversity in the 21st Century: Is it Still Relevant?”

Sponsored by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, the conference begins daily at 9 a.m. every day from now through Thursday and will present workshops, panel discussions and a keynote speaker addressing multiple diversity perspectives.

The notion of diversity has evolved over the years, said Dana Hiatt, director of the OEOD. She said it encompasses not only diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity, but also diversity in disabilities, religious perspectives, sexual identity, culture, thought and teaching approaches.

“[The conference] gives a chance to educate or expose members of the university and the larger Fort Collins community to issues and questions that are presented in the various workshops,” Hiatt said.

Under this year’s theme, conference presentations and the two scheduled university dialogues will address the question of how relevant diversity discussions are to higher education institutions in the 21st century.

“There might be some who would say that we’re there, that it’s not really necessary or relevant to look at issues of diversity, to look at issues of having a diverse environment,” Hiatt said. “So questions that would seem to have intuitive answers — they’re the ones that get a dialogue and a discussion going.”

Hiatt added that the conference will address why CSU holds its diversity conference.

“It gives the university a chance to say, with the time, effort and commitment by a lot of people — not just the people in this office — that this is something important that we’re willing to devote our time and our resources to,” Hiatt said.

Attendance at the Diversity Conference has slowly but steadily grown over the years, Hiatt said.

It “has been wonderful” to see early indicators of high attendance at this year’s conference, said Maria Jones, the event coordinator and administrative assistant to the OEOD, in a phone interview Monday.

She said she is excited to greet 400 high school students from 16 or 17 high schools from around the state to visit from cities such as Trinidad, LaJunta, Greeley and Colorado Springs.

The high school students will arrive to the Lory Student Center at 9 a.m. today to a welcome speech by Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs, and Taylor Smoot, president for the Associated Students of CSU. The high school students will attend workshops from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a one-hour lunch.

Each student will receive an OEOD certificate of achievement for participating in the conference.

In addition, Jones said, pre-registration data indicate more than 550 pre-registered guests.

“So we’re impacting over 1,000 lives already,” Jones said.

“Some of our classes have 50 people registered.”

News Editor Shayna Grajo can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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