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USF St. Pete to host Diversity and Inclusion Conference

The conference will promote the importance of inclusion and diversity in communities. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

The USF St. Pete campus is drawing attention to diversity efforts in its upcoming Diversity and Inclusion Conference in February to discuss methods to promote inclusivity in the academic and professional settings.

The conference will take place Feb. 19 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the St. Pete campus’ University Student Center Ballroom, and will have the theme “Merging our Past and Present to Forge a Brighter Future,” supplemented by the sub-themes of “Celebrating Excellence,” “Resiliency” and “Racial Battle Fatigue.” 

The goal of the Diversity and Inclusion Conference, according to DeWayne Anderson, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at the St. Pete campus, is to celebrate and promote inclusivity. Both inclusive and educational spaces will be provided for St. Pete’s student population. Campus professionals and students of color will also be highlighted.

USF students can register on the conference website for free. Others who apply before Dec. 4 must pay a fee, which is $15 for USF faculty, $30 for non-USF faculty and $10 for students that are not enrolled in USF.

Late registration, from Dec. 5 to Jan. 29, adds an additional $5 to the standard fees for those planning to attend. Admission is still free for USF students as long as they apply by Jan. 29. 

The conference themes will be explored in-depth over the course of the preconference experience, taking place Feb. 18, that will be presented by keynote speaker USF assistant professor of mental health law and policy Micah Johnson.

“His performance is going to be talking about his experiences as a Black man and kind of intersecting with mental health, low [socioeconomic status], different things of that kind,” Anderson said. “The next day will be a full conference focused on educational sessions divided in four slots. Each one will include four presentations relating to the conference’s sub-themes.” 

These sessions will also feature social, meditation and prayer spaces, as well as lectures from two more keynote speakers, Assistant Director of USF St. Pete’s Office of Multicultural Affairs Tristen Johnson and CEO of Batista Consulting Services Angela Batista.   

“I feel like [the conference is] needed,” Anderson said. “The fact that it is needed keeps me going and wanting to do [it], because it really highlights the great work that folks are doing here at this campus, or even outside this campus and in the community.”

The conference will offer virtual attendance to provide safer options due to the pandemic and more details will be given to people who register. For in-person attendees, there will be socially distanced seating, masks, hand sanitizer and color-coded “risk bands” signifying the individual’s comfort level with physical touch.

Green wristbands represent that a participant is comfortable with physical touch and hugs, yellow means only elbow taps and handshakes and red means the participant is not comfortable with any form of physical touch.

Individually wrapped box lunches will be served and seating will be spread out at small eating areas throughout campus. Attendance will be capped at 200 people.  

Anderson said diversity and inclusion begins with oneself so the conference will also promote honest self-expression.

“Diversity and inclusion start off with being your holistic self. It’s genuineness and storytelling,” Anderson said. “Inclusion is having and creating safe spaces for students on our campus.”