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2021 Diversity and Inclusion Conference Set for June 18


JONESBORO — Experts in diversity and inclusion will address how diversity looks in action and offer tools for participants to engage in courageous and equitable practices in their daily lives at the 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Conference, Friday, June 18. The conference, hosted by Arkansas State University’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and St. Bernards Healthcare, is from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. and may be accessed via the Zoom platform.

The conference is targeted at community members, educators, health care professionals, human resource professionals, business professionals and those in similar fields. The registration fee is $25 and participants can sign up by contacting the Multicultural Affairs office at (870) 680-4052 or visiting the Diversity Conference website. Registration deadline is Monday, June 14.

“The case for diversity, equity and inclusion can be made by examining the demographic shifts in the workforce as more women, racially and ethnically minoritized individuals, LGBT-plus individuals, millennials, veterans, and people with disabilities enter the workforce,” said Dr. Evette Allen-Moore, executive director, Multicultural Affairs and Inclusive Excellence. “Tools for DEI help people move beyond compositional diversity to cultures that truly include, value and establish equitable practices.

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a journey and conferences such as this are one tool to help people grow on their journey. The tools that participants will gain will help them promote DEI and advocate for marginalized groups in everyday settings.”

Allen-Moore and Dr. Lonnie Williams, vice chancellor, Diversity and Community Engagement, will welcome participants. Featured speakers for the event include Dr. Bryan K. Hotchkins, assistant professor higher education in the Department of Educational Psychology Leadership and Counseling at Texas Tech; Dr. Faye Cocchiara, clinical associate professor of management at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Russel Shaffer, senior director of Global Culture, Diversity Equity and Inclusion (CDEI) at Walmart.

“Through the content and speakers featured in this workshop, we are enhancing the participants’ skills used every day to create work environments more acceptable of diversity, equity and inclusion allowing each and every person to strive,” added Williams.

Hotchkins will discuss anti-racism action as diversity, equity and inclusion work at 8:50 a.m. He teaches clients how to create transformational organization change through “How to Reserve Racism” training and educates K-12 teachers, administrators, faculty, and parents how to navigate hostile climates and contexts. The death of George Floyd (2020) and the Capitol insurrection (2021) inspired Hotchkins to write “My Black is Exhausted: Forever in Pursuit of a Racist-free World Where Hashtags Don’t Exist.”

His book archives the use of social media to promote Black excellence, mourning, voice and protest, and creates room for discussion about culture preservation among civil unrest. Hotchkins was an undergraduate at Southern Methodist University when be became active in anti-racism and for social justice. Since then, he has worked with education institutions and companies to research organizational climates seeking to make significant change.

Following a break at 9:50 a.m., Cocchiara’s topic is building diverse communities in predominately white organizations at 10 a.m. At UTA, part of her job responsibility includes teaching leadership and diversity at the undergraduate and graduate levels and is scheduled to teach the school’s first disability and work course for graduate students this fall.

Prior to joining Texas-Arlington, she worked at Sabre, Inc. in the travel information systems division of American Airlines, While there, she was part of a two-person team who designed and implemented diversity-related corporate strategies, including mentoring, succession planning and diversity training for all employees.

In 1970, Cocchiara and her family were denied service to a restaurant in Texas and she vowed to end discrimination in her lifetime any way she could.  In her research, Cocchiara outlined the unintended consequences of positive stereotypes of minority groups (Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2004); argued for mandatory diversity training for university business students (Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2009); and provided evidence-based considerations for implementing effective diversity management programs (Human Resource Management, 2010). 

After a second break at 11 a.m., Shaffer will discuss putting people first at 11:10 a.m. At Walmart, Shaffer and his team have responsibility for enterprise strategy, brand identity, external relations, benchmarking, and associate engagement related to the company’s global CDEI initiatives. Since 2006, he has held roles managing global internal communications and benefits communications. In a previous role as senior manager – Constituent Relations, Russell managed Walmart’s corporate strategy and stakeholder outreach for the people with disabilities and aging constituencies.

His 20-year professional career includes roles in advertising, corporate communications, marketing, print journalism and public relations. He began his work experience by paying his way through college as an hourly associate at Walmart and Sam’s Club in Michigan and Ohio.

When he was 10 years old, Shaffer was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic, degenerative eye disease, that led to legal blindness when he was in his late 20s. In addition to numerous awards and board member service, Shaffer was awarded the Stephen Garff Marriott award in 2015 in recognition of his professional achievement and service as a person who is blind or has low vision.

Lori Smith, vice president of human resources at St. Bernards Healthcare will provide closing remarks to conclude the conference.

Diversity Conf