Multicultural Alumni Conference
By UO Student Lili Wagner
Click here to see photos from this year's event.
The theme of the UOAA's 2016 Multicultural Alumni Conference was "Ducks Creating Change," and the event brought number of changes of its own from past years.
“This year we wanted to provide members of the UO community with not only an opportunity to gather and come together but also with something that they could take back with them," said Shannon Rose, conference organizer and associate director of international alumni engagement. "We wanted to provide more content and substance so that the community knows about what’s going on at UO in relation to diversity and inclusivity."
Tyde Kaneshiro, BS ‘15, assistant director of alumni engagement, added, “In the past this event has been called a reunion, and one thing we’ve done this year is change the name to the Multicultural Alumni Conference.”
The change in name reflected this year’s emphasis on substantive programming. The schedule, which included alumni, student, faculty, and staff speakers, as well as panels with guests from various organizations both on and off campus, introduced conference attendees to some of the UO's exciting diversity and inclusion initiatives.
“There’s a common misconception that the university isn’t diverse enough,” said Kaneshiro. "In fact, this is the most diverse UO has ever been. We need people to be challenging that and saying we should be more diverse, but we also need to recognize the efforts being made on campus, and the success of those efforts."
To discuss those efforts, the agenda included speakers from the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the University of Oregon Alumni Association, the College of Education, Student Orientation Programs, the UO Career Center, and numerous student groups, among others.
“We didn’t just focus on ethnic diversity,” noted Kaneshiro. “We have a lot of panels that addressed gender inclusivity.”
One of the presentations on gender inclusivity was led by Delta Upsilon Fraternity, which has recently announced its decision to accept and actively recruit transgender students.
The event’s keynote speaker, sponsored by Portland Business Alliance and Partners in Diversity, was Joseph Wahl, BA ’80. Wahl, assistant director at the City of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, presented on the best practices for recruiting and retaining diverse staff.
“The goal of the conference is to give students access to resources to navigate through life on campus, and for alumni to connect to the changes being made here and consider how they can apply what they’ve learned about what’s happening on campus to other communities and systems in which they interact,” said Rose.
In addition to programming changes, the organizers of this year’s event worked to make the conference more accessible to members of the UO community.
“We decreased the cost of attendance by soliciting sponsorships and, in partnership with the UO’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, we were able to offer travel stipends for guests coming from out of town," Rose said. "We also made sure to schedule the conference over a weekend to hopefully give some flexibility for those seeking child care."
With attendees arriving from as far afield as Louisiana and the East Coast, it was clear that the interest in the UO’s diversity and inclusion efforts was there. And while the event showcased the exciting work being done, it also served as an opportunity to look to the future.
“One of the last events was a call to action panel, which emphasized ways to be involved,” said Kaneshiro. “We wanted to show participants tangible opportunities for continued involvement, continued conversation. Big things are happening, but for people who have opinions about how things can continue to be done better we wanted to provide vehicles for implementing those ideas.
"What really emerged as a theme in all of the panels and discussions is the need to effectively connect current students and alumni, the need for mentorship.”
Rose added, “Both current students and alumni expressed the importance of connecting with one another, not just as a part of the student experience but beyond campus. Our keynote speaker did a great job of emphasizing the importance of networking in relation to professional advancement.”
Next year will mark the sixth year of this event. From the success of this year’s changes, the event’s organizers hope to continue strengthening the conference.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue from this year’s conference," said Kaneshiro. "We look forward to improving each year and are going into next year with a lot of great momentum."