Campus & Community

The Diversity Summit: Celebrating Inclusive Excellence

In the years to come, says Frank Tuitt, the University of Denver’s associate provost for inclusive excellence and associate professor of higher education, “everybody will need to navigate and be successful in a diverse society.”

With that in mind, the University’s Center for Multicultural Excellence, which Tuitt directs, sponsors an annual Diversity Summit—slated in 2015 for Jan. 22–23. The two-day event features guest speakers, workshops and panel discussions focusing on topics related to inclusive excellence.

But just what is inclusive excellence?

“It’s a complex concept,” Tuitt acknowledges. “And it’s always evolving. You go to sleep with one definition and the next day it’s different.

“Sometimes we think of inclusive excellence as a thing, but to me it’s more of a process,” he adds, noting that the process includes everything from creating a campus climate that’s appreciative and supportive of diverse populations to addressing questions of access and equity.

The term was introduced to higher education by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. It was coined, in part, to counter resistance to diversity efforts in higher education—namely, Tuitt says, “the myth that inclusion was a compromise to excellence and vice versa.”

“I actually think it’s a brilliant term,” he explains, “because how can you be against inclusiveness? How can you be against excellence?”

If attendance at the Diversity Summit is any gauge, plenty of people are definitely for inclusive excellence at DU. Launched in 2001 by a handful of undergraduate students, the summit has grown from a low-profile one-day event to a high-profile campus-wide program attracting as many as 700 faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the Denver community. Recently, the event was expanded to include a Day of Action, which brings future students and their families to campus to learn about opportunities in higher education.

To summit co-chair Joanna Leyba, assistant provost for campus and community partnerships, the Diversity Summit represents an opportunity to chart, celebrate and instigate progress. “We ask that our presenters challenge participants to think about their own role in making DU an inclusive institution,” Leyba says.

The 2015 Diversity Summit attempts to remind participants of the progress realized and the challenges that remain. Its theme—Fifty Years Since Selma: Your Voice Still Matters!—references the famous 1965 march in Selma, Ala., where a peaceful assembly of people eager to support efforts for equal voting rights were greeted with violence. Selma called national attention to the need for comprehensive voting-rights legislation and was followed by passage of the federal Voting Rights Act in August 1965. Given that the Supreme Court recently invalidated key provisions of the act, the topic has fresh relevance today.

As part of the Diversity Summit, The Estlow International Center for Journalism and New Media at the University of Denver will host a luncheon at 11:45 a.m. Friday, Jan. 23. The Anvil of Freedom Award for outstanding journalism and democracy will be presented at the luncheon in honor of keynote speaker Michelle Bernard, chairman, founder, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. Bernard is an attorney, a frequent political and legal analyst on MSNBC and CNN and a guest commentator on BBC Radio and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Tell Me More With Michel Martin.”

2015 marks the first year that the summit will be staged in January to complement the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. For years the summit was held at the end of May, timing that made it difficult for diversity champions to harness energy and enthusiasm going forward.

“People would get so excited, but then there were just three weeks of class left,” Leyba explains.

Leyba hopes the 2015 event will catalyze the campus’ diversity efforts for the remainder of the academic year. “What the diversity summit does,” she says “is provide a venue for folks to share best practices and research. It sparks excitement, self-reflection and interest around this idea of inclusion and diversity.”

To learn more and to register, visit the Diversity Summit website.



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