Diversity Forum - July 30

Below is the schedule of workshops and featured sessions for July 30.  All times are Eastern Standard Time.

Please complete this survey to indicate which sessions you are interested in attending.

Zoom links and additional access information will be shared the week of the Forum. If you have not already, please complete the registration form.

9 a.m. – Featured Session

From Protest to Policy: Environmental Justice, Economic Equity and Community Activism

Fred Brown, president and CEO of the Forbes Fund; Carl Redwood, community organizer at Pittsburgh Hill District Consensus Group; Olivia “Liv” Bennett, a member of Allegheny County Council (District 13 representative); Jerry Dickinson, associate professor of law, University of Pittsburgh; anupama jain, executive director of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission; and Hillary Roman, ADA coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh; and Kristin Kanthak, associate professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh

From the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the right to clean air in Pittsburgh and drinkable water in Flint, to the protection of natural resources, and the right of affordable, safe housing and economic stability, this session seeks to educate and expose the root causes of injustice and offer a blueprint towards sustainable, equitable and inclusive prosperity for all.

10:45 a.m. – Morning workshops

Due to overwhelming popularity of the Diversity Forum, the workshop committee has highlighted and will be livestreaming one workshop per session block. We anticipate that many workshops will reach technology capacity. If you cannot access a workshop due to the Zoom room being full, please join us at the highlighted livestream session which does not have a capacity limit.

Collaboration, Aggregation, & Cooperation: Organizing for Justice in a Polarized, Competitive World (Livestream)

Kathryn Fleisher, University of Pittsburgh student and executive director of Not My Generation, a nonprofit committed to localized, intersectional gun violence prevention and advocacy; Cedric Humphrey, rising senior and executive vice president and liaison to the academic affairs committee, University of Pittsburgh Student Government Board; and Tyler Viljaste, rising junior and vice President and chief of Cabinet, University of Pittsburgh Student Government Board

In a world where the pursuit of justice is so often monetized, institutionalized, and siloed, this workshop will make a case for collaborative community organizing and engagement. Facilitated by three undergraduate student leaders, the workshop will detail why young organizers are tossing out siloed organizing in favor of cooperational, intersectional organizing. Together, we will define complicated terminology, model what new approaches to collaborative organizing can look like, and explore the role that institutions of higher education have in preparing their students to be active civic leaders. Beyond talking through these ideas in the abstract, workshop participants will be invited to take part in an interactive brainstorming session around reimagining community engagement on Pitt’s campus.

Environmental Justice Is Social Justice: Past, Present, & Future in Southwestern Pennsylvania

Annalise Abraham, Pitt student in urban Studies; James Fabisiak, PhD, associate professor, environmental and occupational health; director, Center of Healthy Environments and Communities, Environmental, and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh; Oluchi Okafor, Pitt student Africana studies and political science; Joylette Portlock, PhD, Executive Director, Sustainable Pittsburgh; and Aurora Sharrard, PhD, Director of Sustainability, University of Pittsburgh (moderator)

Sustainability is the balance of equity, environment, and economics so current and future generations can thrive. Despite centuries of efforts, the Pittsburgh region has wrestled with this construct, yet issues of environmental and social justice remain – and are intertwined in systemic, cross-generational, and sector-specific issues. Systemic and institutional racism is evident in the poor environmental conditions for black, brown, and indigenous peoples across the United States and in Pittsburgh. This session will start with a land acknowledgement recognizing and respecting Native Nations as traditional stewards of this land. The panel will address how Pittsburgh’s industrialization resulted in social and environmental injustices that perpetuate today, especially affecting communities of color. Topics of pollution, toxic air, energy sources and poverty, and the lack of representation in the environmental sector will most certainly be discussed by the following panel from their various perspectives and experiences.

Defining Defunding: Exploring Local Action Toward Police Abolition

Autumn Redcross, PhD, directs the Abolitionist Law Center’s Court Watch Program in Pittsburgh and Lia Solomon, ’20 graduate with a BA in urban studies and a certificate in nonprofit management

As people around the country call for “defunding” the police, we aim to educate those new to the idea and highlight steps that members of the Pitt and Pittsburgh communities can take to further the fight for abolition. This panel, sponsored by the Abolitionist Law Center, will gather Pitt student leaders, representatives of Pittsburgh organizations, and experienced abolitionists for a discussion about the goal of police abolition. We will lead a conversation about the police, including the origins of policing, experiences with police, and local organizations that provide resources that decrease the need for policing. By introducing abolition as a generative, community-led process—and explaining its differences from police reform—we will explore what it means to “defund the police” from an abolitionist perspective, and how new abolitionists can get started.

The Social, Economic, and Cultural Implications of Water Insecurity

Bridgette Gerber-Winschel, a University of Pittsburgh legal studies major, poet, and activist for clean water who has been involved in Lake Erie's algae clean up from the age of 9

This presentation takes an in depth look at the clean water crisis in the United States through case studies of Flint, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; and Newark, New Jersey while also reviewing the patterns of global commodity wars and population booms in regards to the future of the clean water crisis.

How Did We Get Here? Histories of Race, Discrimination, and Protest

Larry Glasco, PhD, associate professor of Department of History, University of Pittsburgh; Laura Lovett, PhD, associate professor of history, University of Pittsburgh; and John Stoner, PhD, senior lecturer in history and executive director of academic affairs at the University Center for International Studies

These presentations will provide historical context about contemporary struggles over race and discrimination. Dr. Glasco will discuss Pittsburgh's history of race relations. While marked by inequality, it was comparatively free of conflict. The Hill District neighborhood had a remarkable degree of racial diversity and harmony, at least compared to other cities. Dr. Lovett will examine the institution that drew up mortgage maps dividing neighborhoods based on race, a process known as "redlining." She will connect this to believers in eugenics, including Pitt's own Roswell Johnson. Nearly a century later, the harmful impact of this policy on Black Americans persists. Dr. Stoner will examine the contemporary popular protests in Pittsburgh and elsewhere and make comparisons to those of the past. He will seek to draw parallels to moments (like protest movements of the 1960s) that resulted in systemic change and others that failed to produce hoped-for results.

The Case for Community-Based Public Safety

Elina Zhang, creative nonfiction writer and a third-year MFA student, University of Pittsburgh; Sinan Dogan, abolitionist anthropologist and PhD student at the Department of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, Julius Boatwright, MSW, LSW, Pitt, founding CEO of Steel Smiling; Randall Taylor, community organizer currently campaigning for #StopTheStation (East Liberty), union supporter, and former school board member; Robert Saleem Holbrook, community organizer, author, human rights advocate, paralegalist, the director of community organizing for the Abolitionist Law Center, and co-founder of the Human Rights Coalition

The recent protests concerning police brutality and institutional racism against Black communities have led to calls for defunding and demilitarizing the police—all strategies to pursue police abolition. Proposals to defund and abolish the police are often met with concerns about policing alternatives in response to criminal activity. In this workshop, speakers will discuss how abolition is more than dismantling oppressive structures; it is also about creating new forms of community support in lieu of police intervention. This workshop will introduce participants to local organizers working towards police and prison abolition and inform participants on how this challenges structural racism and encourages community safety. The second part of this workshop will address existing local alternatives to police intervention within the Pittsburgh area and encourage participants to discuss what community resources they would like to see in the future.

Using a Community Participatory Research Ethics Training to Address Power Dynamics in Community Partnered Research

Erricka Hager, MPH, research equity translator with the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and Bee Schindler, LMSW, community engagement coordinator at CTSI

This workshop will examine historical issues of power dynamics that have occurred during community based participatory research partnerships while sharing a two-tiered approach to addressing inequities: a matching grant award pairing academic researchers to community organizations and utilizing training to ground the relationship in the sharing of ethical dilemmas unique to the participants.

Engaging in Community-Based Research: Exploring the Paths to Justice

Everett Herman, PhD, director of student and faculty engagement and facilitator of the Community Research Fellowship at the University Honors College and University of Pittsburgh students Michael Babin, ’21 economics and urban studies; Uma Balaji, ’21 psychology, sociology; Mary McMahon, ’23 psychology; Maia Stephenson, ’22 public and professional writing; and Clara Weibel ’20 urban studies

This presentation will be led by a cohort of undergraduates engaged in the Community Research Fellowship sponsored by the University Honors College. The five fellows will provide a pecha kucha style presentation highlighting their research focused on various aspects related to public transportation, water sustainability, and co-curricular youth programming. These projects measure the relationship between commute times and real-estate premiums along Pittsburgh’s proposed bus rapid transit corridor; develop a public history of water issues in southwestern Pennsylvania, explore the role of parental engagement in Black girls' social development, examine the role of social justice and arts instruction can play in the development of positive social change and self-efficacy among youth. These projects demonstrate the potential role undergraduate students can have in research and evaluation projects that can increase the celebration of diversity, equity, and inclusion into the vibrant life of communities.

COVID-19: Disproportionately Impacted Communities and Challenges Faced by Health Experts

Naeem Aziz, rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh and ecology and evolution major; Lauren Yu, rising senior at the University of Pittsburgh and neuroscience and sociology double major and Halley Cook, a rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh and natural sciences and Mandarin double major

This workshop seeks to investigate the impacts of COVID-19 on communities of color, incarcerated individuals, and essential workers. We will discuss many of the societal inequities these populations face that have amplified COVID-19’s effects. Further, we aim to discuss the global impact of COVID-19, as well as how countries with access to necessary resources must help fight the pandemic both domestically and internationally. We will also touch on the challenges health experts face when communicating information with the general public.

Youth Leadership in Action: A Youth-Led Initiative to Improve Trauma-Sensitive School Climate

Namita Dwarakanath, senior research coordinator with the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine and Nick Szoko, chief resident of pediatrics at UPMC

Youth Leadership in Action (YLIA) is a youth-led programming initiative implemented at several Pittsburgh area high schools to improve school climate by fostering student leadership, school connectedness, and trauma-sensitive policies and practices. Longitudinal aims of this intervention include increased academic achievement, reduced truancy and disciplinary referrals, and decreased mental and emotional stress from prior trauma. Methods: YLIA employs a youth participatory action framework in which students engage in a collaborative needs assessment, develop a proposed intervention, and work with school administration to facilitate implementation. In our pilot study (n = 20 students), YLIA participants developed Youth Empowering Youth(YEY), a weekly peer support group designed to improve school climate. Our primary outcome was a perceived change in school climate as identified by YLIA/YEY participants. Results: Analysis of semi-structured interviews reveals themes of school connectedness, teacher-student dynamics, personal development, and mental health. Youth reported increased compassion for their peers, a sense of community among program participants, improved relationships with teachers, and a sense of self-efficacy rooted in shared human experience. Conclusions: YLIA represents a promising youth-led initiative fostering a trauma-sensitive school climate. Our qualitative results indicate a positive impact on school climate across several domains (student connectedness, teacher-student relationships, and emotional health/well-being), with participants recognizing the feasibility and acceptability of this programming.

The Impact of Technology on Equity

Tinukwa Boulder, PhD, associate professor of practice in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Leading, University of Pittsburgh School of Education; Tahirah J. Walker, PhD, manager, University Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh; and Neil E. Brown, PhD

In this workshop, the presenters will present and discuss the impact of technology on equity focusing on three key areas: digital divide, algorithms and information bias, and a critique of the use of technology. In this workshop, the presenters will explore the notion that the digital divide extends beyond access to technology but includes the ability to use technology to teach and learn effectively. We will also discuss the role algorithm plays in promoting inequity and reinforcing prejudice and discrimination towards minoritized people. We will explore the use of technology in terms of how we use it to navigate our educational and social environments and raise awareness that access to technology does not address equity concerns.

12:00 p.m. Featured Session

Faith on the Front Lines: The Role Religious Communities Play in Times of Social Activism and Division

John Wallace, PhD, vice provost for faculty diversity and development, senior pastor of Bible Center Church in Homewood, and cofounder and board president of Homewood Children’s Village; Wasi Mohamed, senior policy officer with the Pittsburgh Foundation; Kathryn Fleisher, University student, social justice activist, and 2020 Truman Scholar; the Rev. C. Matthew Hawkins; and Emiola Jay Oriola, program manager for the Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement, University of Pittsburgh (moderator)

This session will feature panelists from different religious and spiritual backgrounds to address injustice and inequity in our society by using religious organizations to serve as a catalyst for change.

1:45 p.m. – Afternoon workshops

Due to overwhelming popularity of the Diversity Forum, the workshop committee has highlighted and will be livestreaming one workshop per session block. We anticipate that many workshops will reach technology capacity. If you cannot access a workshop due to the Zoom room being full, please join us at the highlighted livestream session which does not have a capacity limit.

Americans with Disabilities Act at 30: Pitt Contributions and Impact on Pitt (Livestream)

Rory Cooper, PhD, FISA Foundation Paralyzed Veterans of America Professor and associate dean for diversity and inclusion in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and director and CEO of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories; Jonathan Duvall, PhD, alum of the Swanson School of Engineering and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences; Libby Powers, University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories staff member; Chaz Kellem, director of Pitt Serves; Shelby VanVliet, undergraduate student representative to the Chancellor's Committee on Inclusion and Accessibility; Tom Armstrong, recruiter, veterans and Individuals with disabilities, University of Pittsburgh Office of Human Resources; and S. Andrea Sundaram, Craig H. Nielsen Foundation Fellow and doctoral student in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

The Americans with Disabilities Act will turn 30 on 26 July 2020. This landmark civil rights legislation has transformed the lives of people with disabilities in the USA. The ADA has had an impact on employment, education, voting rights, accessibility, transportation, and communication. The University of Pittsburgh has both been affected by the ADA, faculty, staff, students, and alumni have also contributed to the implementation of the ADA. The panel will discuss some of the changes that were enabled through the ADA, and some of the barriers that remain despite the passing of 30 years. Panelists will discuss their lived experiences, areas for improvement, possible means for achieving the aspirations of the ADA.

Making Diversity Everyone’s Business: The Perspective of White Allies in Undergraduate Admissions

Kerri J. Meeks-Griffin, MSW, senior associate director of admissions operations and special projects

Using interactive engaging exercises, this workshop will facilitate constructive discussion of our implicit biases and systemic societal issues in a safe and welcoming environment. Participants will learn how to begin and remain open to constructive criticism; make viewing issues from other perspectives as a standard practice, and call to action items for further growth with a specific emphasis on race. As allyship is an ongoing effort, all audiences can benefit from techniques and practices discussed within our work in higher education and beyond.

Fostering Inclusion through Welcoming First Impressions: Name Diversity and Name Coach

Belkys Torres, PhD, executive director of global engagement at the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) at Pitt and Ian McLaughlin, global operations support manager, UCIS

Have you ever thought twice about pronouncing the name of a new colleague or student? Ever wondered how to overcome the awkward problem of name mispronunciation or gender pronoun communication? This interactive session follows on last year’s session on how names and gender identity are central to our individuality. We will showcase and discuss implementation of a new resource for Pitt faculty, staff and students that will help us take the first step in respecting, appreciating and connecting with others by appreciating name diversity and curating more welcoming first impressions.

My Racial Journey: A Guide to Developing Racial Literacy

Shannon Wanless, PhD, director of the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development and an associate professor in the School of Education; Adam Flango, communications manager at the Office of Child Development; Dr. Aisha White, director of the P.R.I.D.E. program (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education; and Medina Jackson, M.S.W., director of community engagement, P.R.I.D.E. program

We will be debuting My Racial Journey, a 10-week guide designed to develop racial literacy for those working with children. This workshop asks participants to examine their own racial experiences, develop a basic understanding of racial literacy, and convey the importance of racial humility. The workshop will consist of the first two lessons of My Racial Journey, lasting 30 minutes each. They include activities designed to help adults examine their early experiences with race and reflect on how those experiences shape their perspective today. Each activity will include guided discussion, open sharing, and resources tailored specifically to that lesson for further learning. Participants will leave with the full 10-week MRJ packet, and are encouraged to use the packet within their own professional sphere, whether it be as a person new to racial literacy or a seasoned practitioner, to deepen their racial literacy.

Purpose and Story: Making Space for the Complexity of Identity Through Narrative

Angie Wolfe, higher education professional in leadership, development, service, advocacy, career and professional development, and counseling and wellness and Reid Helford, PhD, career educator at the University of Pittsburgh Bradford, whose experience includes working as an academic sociologist and in prisons preparing men for their transitions out of solitary confinement and back into the free world

At the Center for Purposeful Engagement at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, the student-centered work of “career services” and “leadership development” is practiced with a concern for cultivating purpose and recognizing the importance, variability, and complexity of students’ social and cultural identities. In this workshop, after briefly highlighting the importance of instilling purpose as central to student growth, we will introduce the value of recognizing and employing narrative approaches in co-curricular programming. Through the use of narrative, we hope to encourage students to see their particular sociocultural identities as context for their agency and how they view their journey as leaders and professionals. It is our belief that situating students’ personal narrative, and the narratives of others, as central to the content of our programs not only strengthens students’ self knowledge, but avoids many of the culturally contingent assumptions that have informed more traditional approaches to career services and leadership education. 

Post-Secondary Inclusive Higher Education – Beyond “Special” Education

Temple University’s Guy Caruso, Ph.D., western coordinator, Institute for Disabilities; Titania Boddie, MA, program coordinator, leadership and career studies, Institute for Disabilities; Erin Metzinger, M.Ed., academic relations coordinator for leadership and Career studies, Institute for Disabilities; Tiara Womack and Khalil Hills, seniors in Temple University's Leadership and Career Studies Program; and Shawn Aleong, Temple University Leadership and Career Studies program graduate and undergraduate student at Fox School of Business

Historically, students with disabilities received “special” education, segregated from peers without disabilities, and socialized and learned only with other students with disabilities – separate but not equal. Such practices resulted in low expectations for students, limited chances of employment and community participation, as well as few valued roles and negligible social capital. When considering the intersectionality of race and disability, the outcomes are even worse. Now colleges and universities are developing inclusive programs for students with disabilities that change the mindsets and expectations of administration, faculty, the student body, and families. In this presentation, you will hear from Temple University students of color, who also have disabilities, and what their university experiences have meant to them. Similar initiatives in Pennsylvania have expanded in recent years, but more inclusive programs are needed in western Pennsylvania, in particular, to provide equitable opportunities in higher educations for students of color with disabilities.

Disability Inclusion: Going Beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act

Heather Tomko, outreach coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh’s National Center on Family Support

This year, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates 30 years since it was signed into law, yet people with disabilities still lack many of the rights and privileges of our able-bodied peers. This workshop will address the distinction between ADA compliance and inclusion of people with disabilities and will provide general best-practice tips for making classrooms, programming, and the University as a whole a more welcoming place for people with disabilities.

Black-Owned Businesses at Pitt: Opportunity & Commitment

Jennifer C. Barnes, supplier diversity and sustainability coordinator, University of Pittsburgh

Systemic racism exists in the business and entrepreneurial space where differential access to capital and resources serves as the main perpetuator of inequity. As a pillar of the Pennsylvania and regional economies, the University of Pittsburgh is committed to responsible and impactful spending practices to strengthen our community with focused engagement and purchasing strategies. Our goal is to create a space where diverse businesses can access growth opportunities and where buyers can access the resources to make more equitable purchasing decisions. This workshop will review Pitt’s strategies and achievements in diverse spending, and present engagement opportunities for local businesses.

Urban Literacy and the Commodification of Poor Black Non-Readers

Jerone Morris, Pittsburgh Public Schools first grade teacher at Pittsburgh Faison K-5 and Andrew Zima, community school site manager at Pittsburgh Faison K-5, Homewood Children’s Village

Our objective is to explore how literacy instruction enables the commodification and exploitation of neoindigienous youth in internal colonies. The legacy of colonialism manifests today in neoliberal practices in public schools. Understanding how this happens requires delving into the roles people in power assign(ed) to BIPOC and how philanthropists, from early 20th century robber barons to the stars of Silicon Valley, exert influence on educational “opportunities” for BIPOC so that they fall into assigned roles. We identify three key ways students are commodified and pushed toward becoming “non-readers”: through policies, practices, and products for profit. If we want to reconfigure oppressive power structures, we need to create humanizing educational spaces. At the end of this session participants should leave with an understanding of how schools reinforce oppressive racial structures, as well as concrete steps they can take to construct humanizing and liberating education for BIPOC.

Teaching Social Justice Through the Use of Picture Books with Young Children

Megan O'Brien, first and second grade teacher at the University of Pittsburgh Falk Laboratory School

Participants will learn how to use picture books to create a space that engages their students in discussions that push their thinking about equity and inclusion.

A Novel Ethical Approach to Reshape Capitalistic Society

Rabbi Aaron Herman, renowned author, lecturer, mentor and Rabbi Shmuel Weinstein, who served as director of Chabad House at the University of Pittsburgh for 31 years

This workshop will focus on how to re-imagine the manner in which we evaluate success and fulfillment in our society. In doing so, many selfish and divisive pressures can be reduced or eliminated on campus and in the world-at-large. Presently, higher education is focused on the acquisition of knowledge as a means to material wealth. Although the out-of-classroom curriculum is beginning to get more attention at the University of Pittsburgh, in order to create societal change, a fundamental shift is needed to really accomplish healthy diversity and inclusion. Inspired by the ideas presented in Social Vision: The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Transformative Paradigm for the World, by Philip Wexler, the workshop will focus on how we begin to uproot the self-interest that has created systemic inequities throughout our society.

Responding to Root Causes: Shifts Toward a New Public Health and Public Safety Paradigm

Richard Garland, MSW, assistant professor of public health practice, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health; Kelley Kelley, LEAD Community Engagement Coordinator for CONNECT and mayor of the Borough of Turtle Creek; Laura Drogowski, critical communities manager, Mayor’s Office of Equity, City of PittsburghJeff Williams; diversion director for the Foundation of HOPE; London Kimbrugh, CONNECT Community Paramedics; and Kenneth Hickey, CONNECT Community Paramedics

Recent calls to action have focused on ways to reduce the harm that the criminal justice system does to Black and brown communities. This workshop will explore programs in Allegheny County that are beginning to move toward a system that uses public health and harm reduction to address the root causes of unsafe and unhealthy behaviors within our communities - without unnecessary criminal justice involvement. This spectrum of programs has begun to shift social work and mental health work out of the hands of police and into the hands of community services that can more effectively address the unmet needs of vulnerable communities.

Communicating our Values: The Language of Social Justice and Inclusion

Paula Davis, certified diversity executive and assistant vice chancellor for diversity for the University of Pittsburgh schools of the health sciences; Pia Deas, PhD, associate professor of English and the dean of upperclassmen at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania; Waverly Duck, PhD, urban sociologist and associate professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh; Abdesalam Soudi, PhD, lecturer and linguistic internship and consulting advisor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh; and Kaniqua Robinson, PhD, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh (moderator)

The goal of this workshop is to ensure that participants recognize that people understand and express themselves in different ways and to be cognizant of personal and institutional language that is biased. The panel will engage participants in a dynamic discussion on how to build inclusive policies and practices for communications and to provide the tools and knowledge to be culturally competent content creators, managers, and editors. 

3:30 p.m. – Featured Session

Working Together/Healing Together: Transforming Care via Social Justice

Sage Hayes, who focused on healing from collective trauma and embodied trauma; Felicia and Martin Freidman, founders of YogaRoots on Location, embodied antiracist yoga instruction; and Jay Darr, PhD, director of the University Counseling Center, University of Pittsburgh (moderator)

Join us for a creative session that will be focused both on education and healing. Our panelists will discuss a wide range of issues related to social justice, trauma, healing, and wellness. As practitioners and healers, our panelists will introduce participants to both historical and present topics, and they will introduce us to practices and methods we can use in the present. Participants should anticipate both a panel and an exercise. Both are focused on working and healing together.