Sep 212009
Authors: K.C. Fleming

What was formerly a one-day conference started by graduate students, CSU’s 9th Annual Diversity Conference, which this year features award winning journalists, local business leaders, university faculty and students, starts today and runs through Thursday.

Centered around this year’s theme, “Diversity in the 21st Century: Talking About Diversity,” the keynote speaker, the series of 33 panels and two dialogue sessions aim to provoke the question of what diversity means and looks like at CSU, event coordinators said.

“There are several goals: one is that (the conference is) an opportunity for us as the university and the larger community to talk about the important issues surrounding diversity,” said Roselyn Cutler, interim director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity and main event coordinator.

Brought to the university as part of the Monfort Professors in Residence program, which offers leadership enrichment opportunities to CSU students, award-winning journalist and former Executive Editor “Ms. Magazine” Helen Zia will act as the conference keynote speaker tonight at 7 p.m in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.

Zia also wrote the critically acclaimed book, “Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People,” which is an overview of the history of minority groups, especially Asian Americans, in America.

Named one of the “Most Influential Asian American of the Decade” by A. Magazine and having received awards for her investigation of date rape at Michigan University, Cutler said Zia’s experiences and unique perspective on diversity will lend themselves nicely to the conference message.

“We are very excited to have Helen . she is a dynamic, exciting person,” Cutler said. “Her commitment to the issues of social justice are strong; her experience is incredible. I think that she is going to be someone who people both find exciting and challenging.”

Zia was paid by The Monfort Family Foundation and will be honored with the title, “Monfort Professor in Residence.” The MPIR program was created to provide leadership enrichment opportunities for the students at CSU. The university and various organizations sponsored the remainder of the conference.

A panel that consists of a newspaper editor and reporter, director of the city’s GLBT advocacy organization and student activists/will discuss present-day, mainstream media coverage of gay marriage and other aspects of diversity including: age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion, among others.

This discussion is timely, panel Mediator and professional adviser to the Collegian Holly Wolcott said, and serves to reveal what role, if any, the media has played in “shaping the landscape of the American state of Colorado” in terms of diversity and related laws.

With the help of the Student Associate Program at the Center for Public Deliberation –/that has undergraduate students meet with university and community groups and forum dialogues about particular issues –/CSU will garner responses from event attendees about their perceptions of diversity.

The two dialogues, “Challenges and Opportunities for Promoting Productive Conversations” and “Working Together to Improve Conversations at CSU,” will take place in the Cherokee Park Room, in the Lory Student Center, respectively, Wednesday and Thursday from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

The average number of people who attend per session, depending on the session, is about 20 to 70 people. Cutler estimated that about 1,000 people are involved in the conference each year, with about 100 to 150 attending each the deliberation dialogues and the keynote speech.

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