First student-led conference at URI to focus on diversity, March 27-28

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KINGSTON, R.I. — March 19, 2015 — On the last weekend in March, the first student-created and led regional conference will take place at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston Campus. Called “Diversifying Individuals Via Education” (D.I.V.E. RI), this event is focused on enhancing student leadership and social change on college campuses.

Organized by the group of multicultural student leaders known as MUSIC (Multicultural Unity and Student Involvement Council), D.I.V.E. RI is a proactive event to focus on race and ethnicity in higher education. Students marketed the event with tremendous success using social media, flyers and direct contact with other regional schools. Registration ended on March 1 with more than 250 participants from URI, Rhode Island College, Johnson and Wales, as well as from colleges in Connecticut and Massachusetts planning to attend.

“By starting student conversations, we hope to create and sustain connections between students from local colleges to promote cooperation and collaboration. We want to identify issues of institutional inequity and advocate for social change on different college campuses,” said Luckson Omoaregba a communication studies major of Pawtucket, who is president of MUSIC, the umbrella and representative council of the student groups affiliated with the University’s Multicultural Center.

The award-winning journalist and Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, Marc Lamont Hill, will be the final speaker at the conference from 5-6 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. Hill will speak about the “Vital Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in the 21st Century.” URI’s Office of Community, Equity and Diversity will sponsor Hill’s talk for the university community and as keynote for the student-led D.I.V.E. conference. Hill’s talk will be held in the Ballroom at the Memorial Union, 50 Lower College Rd., Kingston, RI 02881.

Naomi Thompson, associate vice president of Community Equity & Diversity said: “Each year, the University hosts conferences and events to broaden the understanding and discussions on diversity with our faculty, staff and students. But this is the first time that a group of students has built an entire event to discuss issues amongst their peers at URI and other colleges in the region. We are very proud and supportive of this initiative.”

Conference Schedule

With 22 workshops, two days of events, and three keynote speakers, the conference goal is to raise awareness and to inspire student leaders to develop their action plans with greater cross-cultural competency.

Opening remarks to the conference will be made by Anthony Johnson, director of the Intercultural Center at Rhode Island School of Design at 5 p.m. in the auditorium at Swan Hall, 60 Upper College Road, Kingston Campus. At RISD, Johnson works to ensure a college campus that is enriched through experiencing and understanding society through strategic use of the range of cultures the college represents and building strong bridges to Rhode Island’s greater community.

Conference participants are then invited to the annual Hair Show by URI’s Students Alliance for the Welfare of Africa at Edwards Hall from 7-10 p.m.

On Saturday, March 28, a line-up of discussions will take place in the Memorial Union focused on numerous issues of interest and concern. Registration opens at 8 a.m. and simultaneous breakout sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

A “World Café Discussion” will follow the sessions at 2:30 p.m. for all participants to share ideas.

Damon A. Williams, a nationally known dynamic and innovative scholar and leader, will address the conference at 1:45 p.m. Williams is known to be passionate about creating equitable educational outcomes, and activating learning, youth development, and leadership. The award-winning leader is now the senior vice president for Programs, Training, and Youth Development for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Williams earned his B.A. degree in sociology and his M.S. degree in Leadership Development and Organizational Dynamics from Miami University and his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior & Management Focus from the University of Michigan.

Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College, Marc Lamont Hill, will speak to students, community members and the general public from 5-6 p.m., also at the Memorial Union. Hill is a new generation of public intellectuals, Hill has been featured on National Public Radio, in The Washington Post, Essence, The New York Times, and Fox News. Hill offers a fresh, informed, thought-provoking perspective that never fails to challenge and engage. An award-winning scholar, Hill is the author of four books, including “Beats, Rhymes, and Classroom Life: Hip-Hop Pedagogy and the Politics of Identity” and “The Classroom and the Cell: Conversations on Black Life in America.” Hill is the host of HuffPost Live and BET News, and a political contributor for CNN. He has received awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, GLAAD, and the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.


The collaborative team of students who planned DIVE RI includes:

• Speakers & Presenters- Zulmy Cortez (chair) of Johnston with Kevin Pajaro of Queens, N.Y. and Sarah Patterson of Malboro, N.J.

• Logistics: Brandy Jones (chair) of Providence with Lydia Omoaregba of Pawtucket and Abiola Oladosu of Providence with support from Sheri Davis, Memorial Union coordinator of facility/marketing

• Finance: Dayo Akinjisola (chair) of Providence with Edwin Sam of East Providence, Tunde Akinkuowo of Providence, Tommy Muth of Providence and Luis Aldrete of Beaumont, Texas

• Events and Programs: Raquel Mendez (chair) of Providence with Tiffany Jimenez of Woonsocket, RI, William Bowden of Smithfield and Tiffany Chheuy of Providence

• PR/Marketing: Tobi Raji (chair) with Luckson Omoaregba, Surya Moreira and Shiana Ashworth all of Pawtucket, and Rodney Derogene, Adebusola Abujade, Enma Cabrera and Raquel Mendez all of Providence.

In addition to the office of Community Equity & Diversity, the DIVE conference received support from the Office of the President, Student Affairs, the Multicultural Center, the Women’s Center, URI Honors Program, Housing and Residential Life, Memorial Union, Student Life, University Spirit, Athletics Department and Disability Student Services.

Click here for a complete list of sessions and speakers.