Diversity Student Summit elevates conversation on inclusion
March 19, 2014
As leaders and role models on campus, resident advisors are charged with fostering inclusive communities that provide a sense of belonging for more than 9,300 students in 47 on-campus residence halls.
RAs, house supervisors, and resident fellows will have the chance to discuss issues of diversity and inclusion from their unique perspective at Virginia Tech’s first Diversity Student Summit, Saturday, March 22 in Squires Student Center Commonwealth Ballroom. Registration and breakfast will start at 8 a.m. with the all-day summit beginning at 9 a.m.
“The RAs and the entire student housing staff play a critical role in creating an environment where all of the residents feel included and respected,” said Maura Cullen, the nationally known speaker and educator who will lead the Diversity Student Summit. “Issues of diversity and inclusion impact everyone, not just those from marginalized populations.”
“It matters that we have communities that include all residents,” said Mitchell Anthony Holston Jr. of Dadeville, Ala., a graduate student in higher education in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The word ‘diversity’ sometimes connotes race, but the conversation on inclusion is deeper and more impactful.”
Cullen will engage students in discussion and activities, simplifying the complex issues of diversity in an entertaining and educational manner. “She brings a real humanity to the work of diversity and inclusion,” said Patty Perillo, vice president for Student Affairs. “She helps us understand how we as humans are fallible, while also challenging us to hold ourselves accountable for creating a more humane and just world.”
Residential Learning Coordinator Jason Johnson is leading the committee organizing the event. He hopes the Diversity Student Summit will build momentum and keep the issues in the forefront of students’ minds. “We hope participants will talk about their experience and spread the message throughout their communities,” he said. “It needs to become a natural part of everyone’s life. We want to have a campus culture where every voice is heard and heard comfortably.”
“Cultural competence takes time; it doesn’t happen overnight. And it takes a commitment over a lifetime to strengthen our knowledge, skills, and awareness regarding issues of diversity and inclusion,” said Perillo. “If we want to move into action, which is what social justice calls us to do, then we need to have a strong capacity for this work. This capacity building happens as we continue to stay in conversation with one another over and over and over again.”
The Diversity Student Summit is hosted by Housing and Residence Life and the department’s inclusion committee. Cullen will also facilitate a session for faculty and staff when she is at Virginia Tech. For more information, email Johnson.
Written by Sandy Broughton.