Diversity is a tool which provides perspective and challenging discussions across settings. It allows for a wide array of voices to be heard and uplifted. The 2017 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) State Summit conference at West Chester University titled “Intersectionality: Moving Beyond the Margins” sought to do just that on Nov. 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Nov. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Sykes hosted a variety of panels, workshops and student poster presentations to facilitate the event. Professors, activists and students were given space to share their work and experiences on a wide variety of topics. Panels included “Successful Collaborations to Increase Inclusivity on Campus” and “Integrating Diversity and Social Justice into the Curriculum of Colleges and Universities,” among others.
More than 200 registrants attended both days of the conference, representing over 14 universities in the PASSHE system, in addition to Swarthmore College and Susquehanna University. The conference was comprised of 80 presentations in total, with over 160 student volunteers and conference moderators involved. The conference ran in hour blocks, allowing attendees to choose which panels they wished to attend, with breakfast, lunch and dinner provided by the conference. Panels ranged from discussions about mental health, racial equity, gender equity and sexual orientation equity from professors, advocates and students.
During the lunch break on Thursday, which took place in the Sykes ballrooms, Vice President of Student Affairs Zebulun Davenport had the large lunch room divide into three groups. Each group worked with their individual tables to brainstorm goals and aspirations for the faculty, staff and students for the schools representing the state system. These goals would be sent to Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney of the PASSHE system for consideration.
Hiram G. Martinez, the assistant director of social equity services at West Chester University, hoped to “provide the best services in welcoming guests” to the conference as a chair member of the conference committee. He hopes that the conference brings “legitimacy to the importance of a diverse and inclusive campus” and that it will represent the “core values at West Chester.” He was pleased at the large number of student volunteers, presenters and attendees.
Christopher Fiorentino, President of West Chester University, described the conference as a “statement of commitment between the (PASSHE) system and the university.” He described the people attending the conference as being “truly committed.” He hopes that the presenters and attendees will be able to spread what they’ve learned here “into the community” and foster a better, safer learning environment. Peter H. Garland, the executive vice chancellor of the PASSHE system, hopes to “increase the number of student resources and engagement” through conferences such as this.
The Division of Student Affairs office is located at 238 Sykes Student Union. They can be reached by phone at (610) 436-2480. Davenport can be reached at ZDavenport@wcupa.edu. Hiram Martinez can be reached at HMartinez@wcupa.edu. For updates on future PASSHE conferences, visit their website at www.passhe.edu, or follow them on Twitter @statesystem. The office of the president of West Chester University is located in the Phillips Memorial Building, and can be reached by email at President@wcupa.edu or by phone at (610) 436-2471.
Samantha Walsh is a second-year student majoring in special education and English with a minor in autism studies. She can be reached at SW850037@wcupa.edu.