diversity conference participants

Conference presenters Stacey Bash, Lancaster Campus; Joevon Norris, Athens; Gabriel Faria, Lancaster Campus; and Moderator Catherine Cutcher

Photographer: Linda Lockhart

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First Diversity Initiatives Conference addresses key issues

Nearly 300 attendees gathered in Baker University Center on May 7-8 for the inaugural "Building Community Through Diversity Initiatives" conference.

The event sought to bring together a community of students from all Ohio University campuses to present their work on diversity, multiculturalism, intersectionality and identity in a professional setting.

The "Gender in the Media," break-out session held on Saturday morning served as an example of how successfully the conference spotlighted those areas: discussing diversity issues, undergraduate learning through research, and building the multi-campus community.

Three students - two from the Ohio University Lancaster Campus and one from Athens - presented projects undertaken in Gender Studies class. Though the course and instructor, Catherine Cutcher, provided common ties between the three, the conference was the first time the students had met each other.

"The beginning source was the same," explained Athens student Joevon Norris, a political science major, in describing how the Gender Studies class initiated each of their projects.

Norris surveyed Ohio University students' opinions on beauty and body image in the media.

"I learned stuff I hadn't even thought about," Norris said, speaking about cultural differences in perceptions of beauty. Norris also benefitted from feedback and discussion by the session attendees, as he prepares to finalize his project for class this quarter.

For Lancaster Campus student Stacey Bash, whose presentation was on beauty, body image and supermodels, the experience was a chance to speak publicly on a topic about which she is passionate. She said her interest was piqued after watching a video during class and the
passion was born as she researched the topic. She added that speaking at the conference was an opportunity that was more fulfilling than she expected.

Gabriel Faria, a Lancaster Campus student from Brazil, is a veteran presenter as a result of his participation in the Rotary exchange program, which initially brought him to Lancaster. His topic; a comparative analysis of safe sex public service announcements in the U.S., Brazil and France; brought an international perspective into the session discussion.

Altogether, more than 30 regional campus students and nearly 50 Athens Campus students participated in the conference as presenters.

Throughout Saturday, 14 breakouts covered topics such as the impact and perception of abuse among college students, the politics of being a woman today, qualitative exploration of diverse cultures, Appalachia and Ohio, and straight and queer: new perspectives. A mid-day session featured a variety of creative works - dance, sculpture, spoken word and an original play.

Moderator Winsome Chunnu, assistant director of the university's Multicultural Center, introduced the session as a way to "spark cultural dialogue" and "bring the visual arts and performance into the dialogue."

The conference kickoff was a Friday evening keynote by Rebecca Wanzo, associate professor of English and Women’s Studies at Ohio State University. Her lecture was titled "Dying from
Difference: Understanding Life and Death at the Margins."

The conference was organized by the Office for Diversity, Access and Equity and was funded by an 1804 Grant.