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Diversity Forum 2020

October 27, 2020 - October 28, 2020

Poster for the 2020 UW–Madison Diversity Forum. Details below.

The Pandemic Effect: Exposing Racism & Inequities

The 2020 UW–Madison Diversity Forum will be held virtually on October 27-28. This year’s forum will explore a convergence of contemporary issues from racial equity and social justice to disparities in health care and white privilege during two full days of speakers and interactive sessions. The virtual event is open to the public.

Cover image of the Diversity Forum 2020 digital program. Red background with the title of the diversity forum, "The Pandemic Effect: Exposing Racism & Inequities" displayed on illustrated picket signs.
Download the digital program (PDF)

The university’s premiere conference on diversity, equity and inclusion will feature a duo of keynote speakers, both of whom focus on the sociology and impact of race and race relations. On opening day, Tuesday, Oct. 27, the speaker will be Robin DiAngelo, Ph.D., author of the widely acclaimed bestseller “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”. On Day 2, Wednesday, Oct. 28, the guest speaker will be Austin Channing Brown, author of New York Times bestseller, “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.”

Thank you to sponsors American Family Insurance and US Bank for helping keep the UW–Madison Diversity Forum free and open to the entire community.

Please review our Frequently Asked Questions page to find answers to questions about the Diversity Forum, the registration process, or how the virtual conference will work.

Live captioning will be provided for all sessions.  If you need an additional accommodation to participate in this event, please email events@cdo.wisc.edu. All accommodation requests should be made no less than two weeks before the event. We will attempt to fulfill requests made after this date, but cannot guarantee they will be met.

Diversity Forum 2020 Videos & Resources

Day 1 Agenda – Tuesday, October 27th

All times are in Central Time. Tap here to jump to the agenda for Day 2.

8:30 – 9:00 am Welcome Message and Native Nations Tribute

9:00 – 11:00 am Keynote Address

“Seeing the Racial Water” by Dr. Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo headshot
Dr. Robin DiAngelo

What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless yet is deeply divided by race? Dr. DiAngelo will describe the way race shapes the lives of white people, explain what makes racism so hard for white people to see, and the concept of white fragility that prevents us from moving towards greater racial equity. Weaving information, analysis, stories, images, and familiar examples, she provides the framework needed to develop white racial literacy. Although the focus is on white racial identity development, people of color may also find the analysis valuable as it is one that is rarely affirmed or provided in mainstream society.

The keynote address will be followed by a break and then a live Q&A with the author. A recording of this session will not be available after it concludes.

1:00 – 2:15 pm Breakout Sessions

Option A
Our New Inequities: Recognizing the Effects of Historic Racial Disparities During COVID-19

Scientific evidence shows minority populations, especially Black and Latinx communities, are experiencing a higher incidence of COVID-19 contraction and death. What appears to be a racial connection is linked to inequity in employment, healthcare access, pre-existing conditions and other disparities driven by poverty. This discussion will examine how historic disparities in every aspect of life for minority populations from food deserts and racism to immoral medical experiments and environmental contamination have resulted in increased vulnerability to disease and a growing gap in mortality rates for Black and Brown people.

Option B
Activating the Commitment to Change: History of Campus Activism

All the stages of social change have a purpose from protests and marches to voting. Converting emotions and commitment to the next steps of change is essential to lasting impact and long-term solutions, but the work in between can be hard to define. This session address student activism; successes & challenges including the 1969 Protest which led to Afro Am Dept and its 50th anniversary; Halloween costumes, Latinx, Pride, current SIC and other key times on campus. It will delineate ways to get involved with hands-on, real-time projects and grassroots steps essential to building toward the long-term change many of us have committed to making.

Option C
Stress as a Public Health Crisis: The Daily Grind of Discrimination and Racism on Campus and Beyond

Originally termed Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the differential impact of landmark events, systemic racial disparities and daily micro-aggressions on Black and Brown people has been declared a public health crisis by Dane County. Emerging science shows the economic, psychological and emotional stresses suffered by people of color, especially Black people, is contributing to disparities in every realm of health and wellness from focus in the classroom to mortality rates. The intricate ways these stresses are manifested and create “triggers” that can block full social and intellectual engagement, as well as cause physiological responses, will be discussed from historic and contemporary contexts.

2:30 – 4:00 pm Town Hall Discussion:
Racial Injustice in America: The Evolution Was Not Televised

Discuss the struggles of Black Americans, especially Black men, and launch the discussion on changes needed to begin correcting quality of life and opportunity options for all of the individuals, families and communities caught in the current dysfunctional reality.  We plan for this discussion to focus on the impact disparities in justice and surviving systemic racism has on the lives of Black men.

Diversity Forum 2020 Videos & Resources

Day 2 Agenda – Wednesday, October 28th

8:30 – 9:00 am Welcome Message and Outstanding Women of Color Awards Announcement

9:00 – 10:30 am Keynote Address

A Conversation with Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown headshot
Austin Channing Brown

Austin Channing Brown, the acclaimed author of the bestselling “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness,” will discuss her book and her experiences working for racial justice in predominantly white spaces. In a time when nearly all institutions claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, “I’m Still Here” is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice. By facing head-on the systemic ways our world was built for whiteness, Brown’s work kicks down the door and brings the Black American experience onto center stage.

The keynote address will be followed by a break and then a live Q&A with the author. Keynote sponsored in part by US Bank.


10:45 am – 12:00 pm Breakout Sessions Block 1

Option A
HERSTORY: Voices from Women Students of Color Pursuing Careers in STEM Fields

The conditions for women of color to thrive in STEM involve a recipe of student success strategies that are culturally relevant and intentional. For example, research shows positive mentoring lowers attrition, increases GPA, and advances academic goals. The right environment or interventions develop student identity and promote advanced education in STEM. While there are many well-intentioned programs aimed to support women of color in STEM fields, often they are developed without input from the students they serve. This session will provide a unique opportunity to get a student’s perspective. Learn from students’ promising practices and opportunity areas for increasing and retaining women of color in STEM fields. Learn what makes students feel welcome and reduce feelings of alienation and isolation. Undergraduate and graduate women of color will share their experiences and offer recommendations for broadening participation and creating belonging for women of color in STEM.

Option B
Medieval Studies Perspectives on Contemporary Racism and Cultural Encounter

Medieval images and symbols have increasingly been harnessed by alt-right groups to promote fantasies of pure white races in the past and present. In response, Medieval Studies scholars have emphasized how much more culturally diverse medieval culture was, but an emphasis on medieval globalism and cultural interchange often masks underlying racist narratives and structures that reveal fundamental continuities. The proposed workshop discussion will draw on lessons from a current seminar (Visualizing Race from Antiquity to Early Modernity) to explore how teaching classes on the pre-modern past can be used to shed light on current structures of racism, and how narratives of the past still underlie much of the scholarship of the history of premodernity in the present. Discussion will focus on short readings that connect medieval and contemporary racism. We will promote inclusive discussion following strategies recommended by the Mellon-sponsored Discussion Project.

Option C
Ableism Interrupted

This session will explore the definition of ableism and how it has been institutionalized in higher education. Attendees will learn about the different forms of ableism that exists on college campuses and how this affects disabled students, staff, and faculty. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in discussion and ask questions related to able-bodied privilege. Finally, attendees will also learn actionable steps to address ableism. This is an introductory level session that is recommended for administrators, faculty, staff and students.


12:30 – 1:45 pm Breakout Sessions Block 2

Option A
Niceness is Not Anti-Racism: How White Women Can (and Must) Step Up Their Game

It’s not a secret that white women have continually failed Black women as allies. In this workshop, we will encourage white woman-identified participants to think more deeply about their allyship, discuss their failings honestly to overcome white fragility, and decide on some actions to improve. Presenters will deliver content and provide space for discussion around two main themes: 1) Intersections of white supremacy and patriarchy and 2) Anti-Blackness.

Option B
Fragility of Ability: Cripping Diversity to Enable Inclusive Action in a (Post-) COVID World

Through the lens of “fragility,” we invite more inclusive and intersectional understandings of diversity and more accessible ways to live and advocate for social justice. “Cripping Diversity” asserts disability as essential to discourses on diversity: not an afterthought, not a mere matter of compliance, but an anchor that informs social justice work and fosters cross-movement solidarity. We recognize this pivotal moment in anti-racism action as coinciding with COVID-19, which has redefined many interpersonal interactions, relations to space and time. We take the virtual format of this conference as an opportunity to explore how we can creatively leverage affordances of technology to do intersectional DEI work. How do ableism and racism in digital spaces function off of similar, yet different, mechanisms? How do we create (digital) spaces that foster community and allow diverse embodiments and expressions of identity without imposing default uniformity? Concrete takeaways will focus on what we can learn from our current “remote” world to build a more inclusive future, whatever its form, and a more inclusive concept of diversity.

Option C
Designing an Intentional & Equitable Hiring Process

To build an inclusive, streamlined hiring process, the Career Exploration Center (CEC) and Cross-College Advising Service (CCAS) engaged in an in-depth review of its hiring practices to implement a process that: reduces bias, maximizes the candidate experience, and aligns with office values of promoting & fostering diversity and inclusion. We will share our concrete steps and systematic approach in this multi-faceted session (interactive workshop and Q&A). Participants will leave with a hiring practice toolkit to apply to their own organization’s hiring practices.


2:00 – 3:15 pm Breakout Sessions Block 3

Option A
Witnessing Whiteness at UW–Madison

Studying how white racial identity influences our thinking and behavior is often overlooked in our pursuit to build cultural literacy of faculty, staff, and students. This session will share information about a workshop series called “Witnessing Whiteness: The need to talk about race and how to do it”, which seeks to help white participants explore their personal relationship to race, notice and respond to interpersonal and institutional racism, and improve relationships and collaboration across race to foster a more inclusive teaching and learning environment. The workshop will highlight why the facilitators decided to offer the “Witnessing Whiteness” community of practice at UW-Madison and how it has impacted past participants. Activities and resources will be shared to help session attendees reflect on their own white racialized identities and ways to continue learning in the future.

A recording of this session will not be available after it concludes.

Option B
Including People with Disabilities Based on their Abilities

As disabled individuals, we will discuss our strengths as well as the challenges we have faced. Yet the focus is not on ourselves, but on removing barriers for people with many different disabilities so they can succeed and thrive in work and in our communities.
The format will be an introductory presentation, followed by a small-group discussion. We will encourage attendees to reflect on their own experiences and those of people they know. We will provide a safe space for attendees to ask disability-related questions.

Option C
Liars, Cheaters and Short-Haired Girls: Lessons on Gender Identity, Discrimination, Microaggressions and Beyond

This presentation is based on a qualitative study that explored gender identity discrimination as experienced by four “gender non-conforming” children who play soccer on the same competitive, all-girls’ team. Through the lens of Critical Theory and Critical Feminist Theory, this presentation examines the misgendering, gender identity denial, and accusations of cheating that these young players have endured both on the field and in other aspects of their live. This presentation explores the perspectives of these children as well as of their coaches, teammates, and families. Analyses of in-depth interviews with the athletes, their coaches, teammates, and families, as well as observations will be discussed. This study calls for a deeper understanding of gender identity, misgendering, and gender identity denial. Implications for institutions of higher education, sport management, coaches, referees, and fans are discussed.


3:30 – 4:45 pm Breakout Sessions Block 4

Option A
Centro-Hispano-School of Education Partnership: Linguistically and culturally responsive training to increase mental health and well-being of Latinx communities

This panel will describe the specific components of a partnership grant that adapts state-of-the-art (and science) training for preparing heritage language students to provide mental health and community services to Spanish-speaking and bilingual members of the Latinx community in Dane County. This partnership, based in mutual benefit and mutual respect, could be a model for other community-university partnerships and for other communities of color. The partnership is also one of the first to provide training to use translingualism in mental health services for a Latinx community experiencing significant cultural and linguistic isolation and in a context of oppression, cruelty, and ethno-racial trauma. Working together, the partnership will increase the quality of services currently available to serve the mental health and wellbeing of Latinx populations, address social determinants of health and mental health in Dane County, and increase the workforce equipped to respond Spanish-speaking and bilingual members of our community.

Option B
Democracy, Diversity, and the American Experiment

The Active Audience Process was developed by Professor Chris Walker, founding artistic director of the First Wave Program at UW–Madison. It is designed to decode academic theory and difficult subject matter using contemporary performance practices. It serves as a tool for First Wave Scholars to process contemporary issues through active research, collaboration and devising processes for creating contemporary performance rooted in hip hop and urban art devices. In this session, participants will dive into situations and from multiple points of entry using African Diasporic creative problem solving and collective centering methodologies at its core, drama and dance Education theories as frames. Participants will view performance mediums that are reflective of the subject matter and may take the form of dance, music, theater, performance-poetry, choreopoem, theatre in verse, visual/performance art etc.

Option C
The Power of a Story: Bridging Our Differences Through Perspective Giving, Perspective Taking and Empathy

Think of a story that hooked your emotions; a story that may have altered your worldview, even just a little. When we lean in and listen, the power of story improves our emotional intelligence through awareness and experience of varied emotions, and the practice of empathy for others; particularly those with lived experiences different than our own. Empathy is a muscle we can build to understand what others are feeling. And, we need to build additional muscles to understand why the feelings are experienced. Research suggests a one-two punch of perspective-giving and perspective-taking is an effective way to build bridges that ignite social change across communities. Join us as we introduce you to – and provide space to practice – skills that build emotional intelligence capacity to share in story; give and take in differing perspectives; and bridge our differences for the purpose of moving beyond fragility and othering into the creation of authentic relationships and experiences.

Diversity Forum 2020 Videos & Resources

Thank you to our sponsors

American Family Insurance logo    US Bank logo


October 27, 2020
October 28, 2020
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Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement