On Nov. 15, Valparaiso University hosted the Urban League of Northwest Indiana’s Diversity and Inclusion Symposium. The Urban League, currently led by CEO and President Vanessa Allen-McCloud began as an organization against racial discrimination and supporting equal opportunities for all. The symposium pushes that mission into today’s world.
The Diversity and Inclusion Symposium is an annual event that aims to teach and motivate its audience towards the celebration of equity and diversity. The event is structured into a series of speeches, including panels and focus sessions, to give different angles and advice on creating a more inclusive space. Attendees include corporations, educators and nonprofits.
Associate Professor of Psychology at Purdue University Northwest, Dr. Hui Chu, gave a speech regarding how to incorporate inclusivity into the workplace, no matter what kind of setting it may be. Her session placed a strong focus on understanding the community you are serving and addressing its specific needs while realizing why inclusivity is so important.
“I would tell them [diversity] is really important to be culturally competent, to be culturally sensitive, to be aware and educated on these things because it’s going to be something that they’re going to confront in the real world. You shouldn’t avoid it, you should embrace it,” Chu said.
As a professor, Chu finds that ethnic minority students are more likely to seek out a mentor in minority faculty members, who can often sympathize with the student and provide resources. She recommends this approach to students feeling lost or isolated on campus to help them create a connection to the school.
“One finding that’s very strong and that we find all the time is that students who feel like they belong to their university, to their institution, are more likely to stay and graduate. One of the reasons why they may drop out, especially marginalized students, is because they don’t feel comfortable and they don’t feel like they belong,” Chu said. “So we need to have those LGBTQ student groups, we need to have the black student union, we need to have those groups and communities for people to feel like they have a shared space and a community with shared experiences to feel comfortable.”
Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students at Indiana University Northwest, Beth Tyler, has attended this event for years. For her, the Diversity and Inclusion Symposium provides her with meaningful conversation, good people and strengthens her ability to be a positive role model on the students she works with.
Tyler appreciates the symposium for its open discussion, something she wishes was more incorporated in today’s world. She advises college students to look within themselves to see their biases and work to confront them, rather than feeling shame and pushing the issues away. Implicit bias is an underlying idea towards a group of people that, while not intentional, can cause harm and Tyler urges students to address their implicit biases.
“I would like students to be open to this knowledge that they have assumptions about other people they may not be aware of. It’s not something to be ashamed of, it’s just something to acknowledge. The more you acknowledge it without shame or fear or self judgement, the better you will be to overcome it and treat everyone equally,” Tyler said.
The Urban League of Northwest Indiana will continue to rally for diversity and inclusion by presenting awards to adults and high schools who have created impactful community programs. Nominations are currently ongoing and awards will be presented at the Diversity and Inclusion Luncheon this spring at the Avalon Manor in Merrillville.