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Where We Started
Partnership and Purpose
Past keynote speakers include Lilly Ledbetter, Clarence Lusane, Jose Antonio Vargas and Tim Wise. Topics presented and discussed include inclusive excellence, cultural competency, disabilities, ethnicity, privilege and class, religion and spirituality, gender and sexual identity, ageism and immigration, to name a few. The Higher Education Diversity Summit has grown from 3 presentations to 33 peer-reviewed sessions and from 50 attendees to 700, in just a few short years. Attendees range in knowledge and skill levels, including students, faculty, staff and community members, all bringing important and varying perspectives to the inclusive excellence conversation.
Where We’re Headed
The Higher Education Diversity Summit has grown into a major conference that is leading the conversation about diversity, social justice and inclusive excellence in Colorado. The Higher Education Diversity Summit continues to expand and improve in order to become a leading conference on diversity issues and inclusive excellence in the nation and beyond. The Summit received a high number of quality proposals leading to a record number of sessions being included in the program. In 2015, the Higher Education Diversity Summit introduced four content areas and a peer-review process, which has focused and elevated the sessions presented at the Summit. Over the years, the Summit has hosted expert speakers who are innovative and thought provoking.
Darrel Wanzer-Serrano is Associate Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Texas A&M University. He is also Core Faculty in the Latino/a and Mexican American Studies (LMAS) Program. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in rhetoric, race/racism, diversity and social justice, and Latinx studies. Dr. Wanzer-Serrano’s research is focused on the intersections of race, ethnicity, and public discourse, particularly as they relate shifting cultural and organizational terrains. His last book, the award-winning The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation (Temple University Press, 2015), was the first scholarly monograph on one of the most significant organizations of the Puerto Rican diaspora. In it, he crafts a critical rhetorical history of the Latinx social movement organization and treats them as a touchstone for building decolonial theory and praxis — both for scholars and for organizers. His scholarship has been anthologized; it has also appeared in numerous journals, edited books, and in various public forums. Dr. Wanzer-Serrano is currently conducting research about institutional rhetorics of “servingness” at emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), with a specific focus on how those discourses emerge from contexts of racialized organizations.
Dr. Marla Franco serves as the Assistant Vice Provost for Hispanic-Serving Institution Initiatives at the University of Arizona. She has worked in higher education for 22 years in various roles within academic and student affairs to champion greater college access and degree attainment among underserved and minoritized students, which strongly informs her work today.
Dr. Franco led efforts that resulted in the UA becoming the first four-year public university in the state of Arizona to be federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. She is now working across the university to maximize the designation in a way that truly benefits students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members from diverse backgrounds. She also led efforts that resulted in the University of Arizona becoming one of nine institutions to be awarded the inaugural Seal of Excelencia in 2019.
In 2017, Dr. Franco co-led efforts with faculty that resulted in UA becoming the first recipient of the National Science Foundation’s HSI conference grant, which supported the convening of over 100 thought leaders from five states within the southwest region of the United States aimed at transforming STEM education at HSIs.
As a scholar-practitioner, she has co-authored several publications and consensus reports to inform improved practice at HSIs.
Dr. Franco is a first-generation college graduate, having earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, a master’s degree in counseling from California State University, Long Beach, and a doctoral degree in higher education leadership from Azusa Pacific University. Dr. Franco leads strategically, courageously, and with a fierce passion for what she does.
Dr. Natasha N Croom is Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs and the Special Advisor to the Dean for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence in the College of Education at Clemson University.
As a critical race feminist scholar-practitioner, Dr. Croom is committed to identifying and disrupting interlocking systems of oppression that manifest within and are reinforced by institutions of higher education. Through use of critical qualitative methodologies and methods, she centers the experiences of womyn of color faculty and students to uncover how racism, sexism, classism, and other interlocking systems of oppression and privilege manifest in and create barriers to thriving and success in higher education environments. Through her praxis, Dr. Croom strives to work in and with communities to support the creation of practices and policies constructed from equity-based ideologies.
Dr. Croom is highly involved in the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, ACPA – Student Affairs Educators International and currently serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal of College Student Development (JCSD) and the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education.
Laura I Rendón is Professor Emerita at the University of Texas-San Antonio. She is also affiliated with SpeakOut as a featured speaker at higher education institutions and conferences throughout the nation. Her presentations focus on topics such as student success, Latinx STEM students, deep learning experiences, self-care and healing.
Rendón’s passion is ensuring that the nation’s educational system fosters success for all students, especially those who are low income and first generation. Rendón developed “validation theory,” an asset-based student success framework that has been employed to frame research studies and programmatic activities in two- and four-year colleges and universities.
Rendón is also a teaching and learning thought leader. She authored the book, Sentipensante (Sensing/Thinking Pedagogy): Educating for Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation. She has an extensive list of publications that include books, monographs, refereed journal articles and policy briefs.
Representative Leslie Herod (HD-8) was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the General Assembly, while receiving the highest number of votes of any candidate running in a contested election. She serves as the Chair of the House Finance Committee, Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Chair of the Committee on Legal Services. Rep. Herod also chairs the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus and the Arts Caucus.
Since her election in 2016, Herod has sent 68 bills to the Governor’s desk, marshaling through numerous pieces of legislation addressing criminal justice reform, mental health & substance abuse, renewable energy, youth homelessness, and civil rights protections. Her legislative agenda underscores her commitment to improving the lives of all Coloradans, especially those caught in the cycle of poverty or mired in the criminal justice system.
Dr. Rosemarie Allen has served as an educational leader for over 30 years. Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate. Rosemarie has served in directorship roles with the Colorado Department of Human Services, most recently in the Division of Youth Corrections. Dr. Allen recently launched a new non-profit; Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence (IREE) which will serve as the lead agency for ensuring equity in educational practices throughout the nation.
Growing up in a little alley in Manila, Philippines, Geena Rocero knew that she was different from her childhood friends. At a young age, she told her mom that her gender assignment at birth did not fit her identity. Via a random encounter during a town fiesta at the age of fifteen, a pageant manager approached her to join a beauty contest. This opportunity led her to the world of TransWomen Beauty Pageant in the Philippines. As a young teenager, she then became one of the most prominent figures in the Trans Beauty Pageant world. Geena is currently traveling the globe as Gender Proud’s Founder, meeting with trans communities all over the world. Her speaking engagements in the US focus on starting a new, more enlightened conversation about the transgender experience.
Marsha Aizumi’s work in the Asian & Pacific Islander and transgender communities has taken her around the United States and overseas to China as she shares how her shame, grief, and fear moved into unconditional love and acceptance for her son, Aiden. Marsha and Aiden have written a book, Two Spirits, One Heart, which was published in 2013 by Magnus Books. Together or individually, Marsha and Aiden have spoken to over 100 organizations around the country. She co-founded and is current President of the San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG and in 2014 she co-chaired Okaeri (which means welcome home in Japanese) a Nikkei LGBTQ gathering which drew close to 200 people from across the nation and Canada.
Dr. Cross is “old school” and his involvement in the racial-cultural discourse dates back to 1971. He exited the Graduate Center-CUNY in 2008 as professor emeritus, with the intention of retiring, but as he tells his friends, he is a total failure at retiring, and has since held positions at UNLV and is currently at the University of Denver. Dr. Cross took his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1976 and has held positions at Cornell University, Penn State University, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the Graduate Center-CUNY, UNLV and the University of Denver. His most recent work is an edited volume on black identity [Meaning Making, Internalized Racism, and African American Identity] on SUNY Press and is due to be published in the spring of 2016. Jas Sullivan, Ph.D., of the LSU Political Science Department, is co-editor.
Bill Shannon is an internationally renowned dance and media artist who defies definition and gravity. Through storytelling, dance, physical comedy, visual art and live video of street performances, Shannon shares with his audience how his dance/mobility form with crutches and a skateboard slowly evolved into a linguistic project. He documents how he created dance techniques on crutches while performing, speaking and showing his work around the world.
Ericka Huggins is a human rights activist, poet, professor, former Black Panther leader and political prisoner. For the past 25 years, she has lectured throughout the United States, where her extraordinary life experiences have enabled her to speak on issues relating to the physical and emotional well-being of women and children, youth, education, incarceration, and the role of spiritual practice in sustaining activism and promoting change.
Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be an activist; she did not even involve herself in politics much. But after the Supreme Court ruled against her, she decided it was time to start. The first piece of real legislation Barack Obama signed as the 44th President of the United States helps ensure that workers discriminated on the basis of gender have a fair chance to sue their employers. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named after a woman who was paid less than her male co-workers at an Alabama tire factory.
Jose Antonio Vargas is a journalist, filmmaker, and immigration rights activist. Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States from the age of twelve, he was part of The Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008 for coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings online and in print. He wrote, produced, and directed the autobiographical 2013 film, Documented, which CNN Films broadcast in June 2014.
Chicago native Michael Fosberg has been working to create a national dialogue on race and identity since 2001 when he launched his one-man autobiographical play Incognito. The author-activist has used the unique presentation, along with engaging interactive training sessions and speeches, to embrace diversity in an effort to change corporate and organization cultures.
Tim Wise, whom scholar and philosopher Cornel West calls, “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (abolitionist) John Brown,” is among the nation’s most prominent antiracist essayists and educators. Wise appears regularly on CNN and MSNBC to discuss race issues He graduated from Tulane University in 1990 and received antiracism training from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, in New Orleans.
Dr. Clarence Lusane is a full Professor of Political Science and International Relations, and the former Program Director for Comparative and Regional Studies in the School of International Service at American University where he teaches and researches on comparative race relations, modern social movements, comparative politics of the Americas and Europe and jazz and international relations.