St. Olaf hosts inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium
St. Olaf College hosted its inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium Friday, May 6, and Saturday, May 7.
The symposium, titled Recognizing Excellence, Challenges, and the Work Ahead, featured two keynote addresses and dozens of breakout sessions and workshops held across campus and virtually. They touched on a wide range of topics and disciplines, from how to create more inclusive classrooms to supporting religious diversity on campus to ways to be a responsible racial ally and activist.
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier says the symposium provided the campus community with a much-needed opportunity to work and learn together.
“In higher education, we hyperfocus on productivity — sometimes at the expense of building relationships. We are hungry to pause and engage in dialogue and collaborative learning. The symposium allowed many members of our community to pause, learn, and grow together. Students had the opportunity to co-present with staff and faculty and be part of co-creating knowledge. We challenged each other, our minds, and spirits,” she says.
The symposium allowed many members of our community to pause, learn, and grow together. Students had the opportunity to co-present with staff and faculty and be part of co-creating knowledge. We challenged each other, our minds, and spirits.Vice President for Equity and Inclusion María Pabón Gautier
Hosted by the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office and the Council on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the symposium was supported by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
St. Olaf Assistant Professor of Music Tesfa Wondemagegnehu kicked off the symposium with a keynote address on Friday titled To Repair: The Breakdown of the Musical Score. He provided a deep dive into the compositional process behind his multi-movement choral work To Repair, sharing music, poetry, and stories from the To Repair Project — a 60-day, 7,000-mile solo journey to over 40 cities around the country collecting Black stories on what repair looks like. That journey provided the inspiration for his monumental composition, which was commissioned by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club and conductor Mark Stover ’01. Members of the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club were joined in concert by tenors and basses from the St. Olaf Choir and Viking Chorus for the on-campus premiere of To Repair on Saturday.
Whitney Harvey, the senior director of workforce diversity and inclusion at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, delivered a keynote address on Saturday titled The Journey: A Practical Application of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She encouraged participants to think about privilege, shared her personal and professional DEI journey, and discussed real-life and practical application of DEI in the workplace.
As part of the symposium, the St. Olaf Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office also recognized a number of students, staff, and faculty with the Equity and Inclusion Leadership and Service Award. The award recognizes outstanding leadership and engagement in creating, advancing, and sustaining social change for the well-being of diverse and underserved communities. The inaugural recipients of the award are:
- Andrea Diaz ’22
- Anja Dulin ’23
- Mariam Prater ’23
- Norma Charlton, Assistant Director of Equity and Intercultural Engagement
- Marie New, Director of Enrollment Operations
- Nayeli Trujillo, Assistant Director of Academic Support
- Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, Professor of English
- Jeremy Loebach, Associate Professor of Psychology
- Jonathan Naito, Associate Professor of English