UW–Madison at NCORE: Serving as Thought Leaders in the National Conversation on Diversity in Higher Education

The following news story was written by Amy Weitz. 

University of Wisconsin–Madison staff and students are playing a leading role in advancing the national conversation around equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging on U.S. college campuses following presentations at the NCORE® conference held in New Orleans in early June.    

Now in its 35th year, NCORE – or the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education – is the most comprehensive national forum of its kind, bringing together leaders from across the country to focus on the “complex task of creating and sustaining comprehensive institutional change designed to improve racial and ethnic relations on campus and to expand opportunities for educational access and success by culturally diverse, traditionally underrepresented populations.” Keynote speakers included Michelle Alexander, a leading civil rights lawyer and author of the bestselling book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness; her impressive resume includes clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun.  

 UW–Madison staff and students held several breakout sessions that addressed some of the most pressing issues facing campuses today – from ensuring that marginalized students receive authentic, personalized attention that will enable them not only to survive but to thrive – throughout their academic career and beyond; to taking a hard look at the evolving role of Diversity Officers on campus and how they can best serve students, faculty and staff; to tackling issues of belonging facing young LGBTQ+ directors of color, to discussing the balancing act that administrators experience in handling their responsibilities while serving as social justice advocates. University leaders also served as co-facilitator of a roundtable discussion for human resources professionals.   

“We were honored to serve in such a visible and meaningful way at NCORE, at a time when issues concerning diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging on college campuses are taking center stage across the country,” said LaVar J. Charleston, PhD, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion, and Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer for UW–Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA). “Our staff and students have so much knowledge and experience to contribute to this national discussion, as we strive to create an environment where all students, staff, and faculty feel that they can thrive. We are excited to continue fostering these important conversations on our campus, in our communities, and across the nation.”  

The breakout sessions held by students and staff in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement and across the university covered a wide range of current issues confronting college campuses, including:  

PEOPLE First: Engagement, Agency and Advocacy as a Framework for Uplifting 

Underrepresented Students 

PEOPLE, also known as the Precollege Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence, is a UW–Madison program designed to improve access to success for students who traditionally have been overlooked and underserved, including first-generation and low-income college students. The session, run by current PEOPLE staff and students, focused on moving beyond long-held concepts such as student advisory boards to efforts that meet marginalized students more directly and empower them as scholars and leaders. The panelists included Kimberly D. Vue, BS, College Advisor and Anisa Yudawanti, BS, College Advisor, both with DDEEA; and students Manny Abrajan Rojas, Daisy Hong, Joseph Smith and London Bates.  

Re-imagining the Office of the CDO: Maximizing Efficiencies for Strategic Diversity Leadership 

This session, run by leaders within DDEEA, was the only one at NCORE to focus specifically on challenges facing Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) and on strategies for meeting these challenges effectively. The panelists shared the Division’s process for reforming the structure and culture of the diversity office, with the goal of increasing diversity across the university and supporting sustainable pipelines for student access and representation. The panelists, all within DDEEA, included James A. Yonker, PhD, Office of Strategic Diversity Planning and Research; Raul A. Leon, PhD, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Engagement and Scholarship Programs; Catherine Chan, PhD, Assistant Vice Provost for High Impact Practices; Torsheika Maddox, PhD, Senior Operations Officer and Chief of Staff; and LaVar J. Charleston, PhD, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion, Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer.  

Leadership Crossroads: Unpacking Identity and the Experiences of Young, Queer Directors of Color 

The presenters discussed their experiences and invited participants to reflect on their own as they aspire to grow into and succeed in leadership roles. They discussed overcoming the challenges and barriers that exist while remaining true to one’s own values and sense of self.  The panelists were Caitlyn LoMonte, MA, Director of UW–Madison’s Office of Inclusive Education, and Arturo Diaz, MS, Director of the Multicultural Center at UW–Madison’s School of Business.  

The Delicate Tightrope: Balancing being an Administrator and a Social Justice Advocate  

This session discussed the tension that can arise between serving as an effective administrator and being a social justice advocate – a tension that can be especially fraught for staff of color. The interactive presentation provided opportunities for participants to share their experiences and how they have grappled with challenges they faced.  The panel was led by UW–Madison’s Gabe Javier, EdD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; Caitlyn LoMonte, MA, Director, Office of Inclusive Education; and Claudia Guzmán, MA, Director, Multicultural Student Center.  

Emerging Issues Roundtable for Human Resource Professionals 

Gabe Javier, EdD, UW–Madison’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and a member of NCORE’s Human Resources Committee, co-facilitated this roundtable session for human resources professionals to discuss strategies and best practices for addressing emerging issues affecting their work.