Sights and Sounds: Global Inclusion & Diversity Summit

| March 1, 2013
Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit

Lee Gill started the summit off with a packed house in the Sunnen Lounge.

Webster University’s Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit was a significant moment for the University community — a chance for a day of discussion among students, faculty, staff and administrators to consider diversity and inclusion in a variety of contexts.

As many sessions made clear, these contexts are always evolving, always adapting to new ideas and changing realities.

The day kicked off with a standing-room only crowd in the University Center Sunnen Lounge to hear keynote speaker Lee Gill, associate vice president for Inclusion & Equity and Chief Diversity Officer at The University of Akron, Ohio.

Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit

President Stroble spoke with a student who had ideas on gauging cultural competency and asked Gill what Webster’s next steps should be.

In introducing Gill and the day’s agenda, Webster President Beth Stroble thanked the steering committee for planning the event, and highlighted discussions among the Diversity Working Group about ways to improve University hiring to better reflect Webster’s global diversity, and discussions with students about evaluating our environment as it supports that diversity.

She also made a central point tied to Webster’s mission as it applies locally and globally: “Can we as a University — as a community, as a society — achieve excellence without inclusion? The resounding Webster answer is that we cannot” have one without the other: Excellence demands inclusion.

One traditional role of a university, Stroble said, is to wrestle with the timeless challenges of society as they evolve, in order to better serve our students and the world around us. That means equipping our students with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to succeed by engaging the world with these perspectives.

So one question for the day, she said, is “How do we live out our values so that we are true to our community and a beacon to the world around us?”

Gill: ‘This Conversation Must Be Had Over and Over and Over Again’

Someone who knows well how to address that question is Gill, who has considers it daily in his role at Akron — not simply because it is his job, but because societal conditions demand it.

“Diversity is not a journey, it’s a process,” he said. “As the demographics of our world keep changing, this conversation has to be had over and over and over again.”

Gill compared it to the ever-changing technologies in Information Technology: “The temptation is to think, ‘But we already did that last week.'” The reality, however, is that the work of diversity and inclusion is never finished, its obligations always evolving with changing demographics and human experiences.

But increasingly, successful businesses and other organizations realize that this approach to inclusive excellence isn’t just an ethical choice — it’s a competitive advantage. “This isn’t about singing together and enjoying each other’s company — although we can do that too,” Lee said. “There’s a bottom-line benefit.

“Diversity in the 21st century is driven by imperatives of competitiveness, demographics, immigration and globalization that supersede the social activism and legislative interventions” that drove it in the past, he said.

Click here for the video of Gill’s presentation, or watch the embedded version below:


And of course, for Webster University, the bottom line is student success.

Global Inclusion and Diversity Summit

Several Webster professors led “Introducing SAFE ZONE: A Training Program in LGBTQ Awareness.”

Multiple Concurrent Sessions

In addition to the keynote, several concurrent sessions populated the day’s schedule.

Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of Webster’s partners at the Diversity Awareness Partnership, led a session on “Insights into Diversity and Inclusion.”

Multiple Webster professors led a panel on “SAFE ZONE,” an innovative training program for LGBTQ Awareness. (Panelists: Mary Ann Drake, professor, Nursing Department; Douglas Finlayson, professor, Department of Conservatory of Theatre Arts; Kim Kleinman, assistant director, Academic Advising; Don Conway-Long, associate professor, Behavioral and Social Sciences; and Kate Parsons, associate professor, Philosophy)

The day included two student panels: “Communicating Across Cultures,” moderated by Deborah Pierce, director of the Center For International Education, and “Why Diversity Matters: The Students’ Perspective Regarding the Essential Role of a More Diverse Faculty and Staff,” moderated by Robin Jefferson-Higgins, assistant professor and chair, Legal Studies.


Avery requested participants’ impressions from religious-themed magazine covers.

Vanessa Avery, Webster’s Visiting Professor in Western Religions this semester, hosted an afternoon session titled, “Creating Interreligious Peace, Not War: Religious Diversity in the Workplace.” In addition to her academic interests in interreligious dialogues between the great Western faiths and others, she has also worked for over a decade in New York City and the Northeast with academic and business organizations presenting and running training sessions on diversity — in particular, religious diversity and inclusion.

Avery’s presentation provoked a lively discussion among faculty, staff and students around the topics of accommodating religious beliefs and practices in a university setting and the concept of unearned privileges experienced by those who are part of the dominant culture or religion.

[See more photos from the summit on the University’s Facebook page.]

That Uppity Theatre Company and The DisAbility Project

That Uppity Theatre Company uses humor to bring awareness and sensitivity to the disability community.

Webster alumna Joan Lipkin was responsible for two sessions through That Uppity Theatre Company, which she founded. The first was an ice breaking session at mid-day, the other was from the company’s DisAbility Project.

The DisAbility Project performance group is comprised of people with and without disabilities, using humor to bring awareness and sensitivity to issues in the disability community. They performed in the Community Music School as part of the summit, entertaining the Webster audience with lively performances and a Q&A session with the performers after the show.

Featured skits included managing a young child’s curiosity when seeing someone in a wheelchair, abiding by handicapped parking space laws, and “Fifteen Things to Not Say to a Person With Disabilities.”

The performers with disabilities — all of who are self-proclaimed “attention-seeking hams” that love to make people laugh — shared that having this outlet for their talents has been personally rewarding and has created a real sense of community. The biggest take-away from the show: Say hello, and treat people with disabilities just as you would everyone else.

Diversity Working Group Survey

You may have received a survey on the diversity climate at Webster from the Diversity Working Group. Initial response rate has been impressive, but if you have not done so, please respond to that survey to help the working group better evaluate and make recommendations in May. (If you do not find it in your email inbox, which is preferred), you may also fill it out here)


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Category: Employee News, Faculty, St. Louis Campus News, Student Affairs and News

Comments (3)

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  1. Tamara says:

    This was one of the most enlightening Summits I have had the pleasure of attending. Of course the purpose of this event was to bring “Awareness” and I hope it has done just that, not only from a staff or faculty perspective but Student Perspective. I was very proud of our student body for standing up and expressing their opinions and making suggestions. Diversity is an important issue at Webster University and i would like to thank the Diversity Working Group and Webster University for making this day happen.

  2. Rachel says:

    Does anyone know if the sessions,especially the student panels were livestreamed or videotaped for future training of faculty/staff? It was very eye-opening to me.

  3. Karen says:

    Rachel, I videotaped the Keynote, Lee Gill.

    Not sure if any others were recorded.