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Staff Go to Portland for National Conference on Race and Ethnicity

Portland, OregonEvery profession has its major conferences, and for diversity and inclusion professionals, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE), is one of the big ones.

Each year, professionals from across the U.S. converge for several days of presentations, seminars, workshops and networking. For those in higher education, the conference comes at the perfect time: summer. Attendees fully devote themselves to four days of learning, reflection and gathering new ideas and scholarship for the year ahead.

This year’s conference took place on May 28 – June 1, 2019 in Portland, Oregon, drawing 2,500 attendees. We interviewed one of this year’s NC State attendees, Erin Morant, outreach and education program coordinator in the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Erin MorantDiversity Digest: Why do you attend NCORE?

Erin Morant: I was fortunate to attend NCORE for the second time this year. It’s one of the few conferences that focuses directly on the work that we do. In higher ed, there are so many other schools out there that we can learn from. And there are tracks for chief diversity officers, student affairs, human resources, and many sessions centered around training and education initiatives — more every year.

Diversity Digest: What were some of the presentations you attended?

Erin Morant: One of my highlights was a session about the experiences of indigenous women with sexual assault. The rates are astronomical; indigenous women are six times for likely than any other group to be assaulted in this country. No one is tracking the trends because the FBI does not maintain statistics on indigenous women who have been assaulted. This is information everyone in our field needs to be aware of.

On a related note, conference presenters recognized at the beginning of every session that we were standing on lands where indigenous people were pushed out. On top of that, racial exclusion laws in Oregon resulted in there being so few persons of color there today.

I attended another really great session about a certificate program that was recently rolled out at the University of Georgia, a large, public land-grant institution like NC State with a similar population size and strong research background. Their program shares similarities with our own Equal Opportunity Institute program. It will be helpful to have contacts to bounce ideas off of.

I also attended a session that talked about integrating a religious holidays calendar into the school’s academic calendar to denote “blackout” days where no exams are allowed. Other schools are accommodating religious diversity creatively, such as giving exams early in the morning during Ramadan to better accommodate fasting students.

Diversity Digest: What advice do you have for those wanting to attend NCORE?

Erin Morant: There are a large amount of sessions focused on many identities and experiences of other people, so it’s a great place to go to get information at all levels. For example, if it’s your first time learning about LGBTQIA+ issues, there are workshops. You don’t have to have an advanced understanding of the information to be able to benefit greatly from the conference. You’ll learn about terms and identities you may not encounter on a daily basis. You gain awareness of things you might not have known much about. For those seasoned in diversity topics, we all have something to learn, and we need to keep continuously learning to keep doing the work.

Diversity Digest: Why is it important for people to attend NCORE?

Erin Morant: It’s necessary to dedicate time and space to discuss topics that relate to a diversity of institutions, including universities and community colleges — people who care about this work in these different spaces.

It’s nice to learn about national trends and ways to work with the resources we have. Not all schools have a unit dedicated to diversity work outside of compliance like we do at NC State; some have to manage with far less resources. We share what we’ve learned, best practices, things that work and things that haven’t worked, things that we thought would fail but succeeded, new issues and case studies, and learn from people who have done things that we are doing, such as implementing cultural competence training, and bringing back a wealth of information.

[Photo, top: Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity staff members Marcela Torres-Cervantes, Leah Young and Angela Gay met up with Preston Keith, director of the LGBTQ Center, University of Cincinnati, at this year’s NCORE.]

Elizabeth Snively writes for the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.