Diversity Symposium

Since 2004, Harper College has hosted an annual Diversity Symposium. The diversity symposium provides Harper’s employees with a unique opportunity to learn and discuss important topics that are centered around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and critical conversations create an atmosphere of reflection and transformation. All employees are invited and encouraged to attend the facilitated discussions and presentations that occur throughout the symposium. The discussions and activities highlight a variety of diversity, equity, and inclusion topics that promote critical thinking and reflection. This annual event continues to be an anchor for many employees.


Our annual Diversity Symposium was held on Friday, October 21, 2022!

The annual Diversity Symposium is open to all of Harper's faculty and staff. This year's theme was "Understanding Systemic Racism: Past, Present, and Making it Personal." Systemic racism impacts all of us collectively as a higher education institution. As the campus and the world become increasingly diverse, it is vital that we understand how systemic racism impacts and intersects with various historically underrepresented, underserved, and/or marginalized communities and groups; including, but not limited to, abilities/disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and/or socioeconomic status. Participants gained deeper insight into how systemic racism impacts people, organizations, policies, and practices. Additionally, individually and collectively, strategies for minimizing systemic barriers were discussed to amplify the success of Harper's students, faculty, and staff. The diversity symposium creates a brave space for all employees to engage with each other and provides unique opportunities to interact with phenomenal diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioners/clinicians to acquire new knowledge and perspectives. Below are a few of the 2022 Diversity Symposium Highlights.

Click here to view the Opening Keynote address. 

Click here to view the Closing Keynote address.  

Session Highlights:

Envisioning Justice in Higher Education amid Systemic Racism

Keynote Speaker: Dr. David Shih

Dr. David Shih’s keynote address unpacked contemporary antiracist discourse, and he discussed how it leads us toward justice goals or ineffectively away from them. As a professor, Dr. Shih encountered racism daily, and he shared some of the traumatic experiences that led to successful initiatives and how he interrupted systemic racism. Additionally, Dr. Shih discussed some of the disappointing setbacks he encountered throughout his career, which often caused the institutional status quo to be maintained. Furthermore, Dr. Shih encouraged participants to consider how justice issues could be navigated at Harper College to minimize systemic racism and institutional barriers.

Understanding Anti-Blackness

Featured Speaker: Dr. David Shih

Dr. David Shih led a discussion on anti-blackness and the role it plays in personal and institutional meaning-making processes. This discussion unpacked the historical layers of anti-blackness and the deep roots of racism in America. Dr. Shih also discussed state-sponsored policies and practices that are rooted in anti-blackness. Participants had opportunities to share their experiences and perspectives about anti-blackness and how racism has been ignored, minimized, or deferred in the planning and execution of antiracist dialogues and initiatives within their institutions and social circles. 

Racialized Trauma in BIPOC Bodies

Featured Speakers: Chicago Compass Consulting, LLC

Michelle Byrd, MA, NCC, LPC; Tiffany Fang, NCC, LPC; & Dennis Nguyen, LCSW

Despite the ongoing experience of prejudice, bias, and microaggressions in day-to-day life for many individuals who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), there is very little guidance on how to identify and respond to ongoing experiences of race-based traumatic stress in places of work and education. This breakout session provided an affirming, supportive, BIPOC-dedicated space for faculty and staff of color to reflect on the framework of race-based traumatic stress both within and outside academic settings.

This session also offered a starting point for further conversation. This session was facilitated by three BIPOC clinicians who provide BIPOC-centered therapy in their daily practice. The workshop also provided coping skills and strategies to identify and understand race-based traumatic stress. Additionally, the facilitators structured guided meditation as a model strategy for affirming BIPOC faculty and staff experiences while highlighting additional healing resources and trauma support. 


An Introduction to the Foundation of Race and Racism

Featured Speaker: Dr. Scott Cashman

This session explored the foundations of racism, both historically and culturally, and its 21st-century implications. Data was used to establish the reality of the disadvantages in our country for many historically underrepresented and marginalized communities. Participants briefly examined the difficulty of cross-cultural communication, and they were encouraged to consider how this might cause individuals to interpret situations and expressions differently.  

Addressing Systemic Racism through Critical and Compassionate Classrooms

Featured Speaker: Dr. Durene Wheeler

Participants explored liberatory, engaging, critical, and culturally sustaining pedagogies to combat systematic racism in course development and implementation. Participants also discussed how power, privilege, and positionality are often enacted in classrooms. Additionally, some of the methodologies for creating compassionate classroom environments where all students belong and can take intellectual risks were highlighted. 

Breaking Ground: Building a New Foundation as an Anti-Racist Campus

Featured Speaker: Amanda Mesirow

The closure of our time together at the symposium provided tangible and actionable ways that educators can speak truth to power to create a campus environment where the journey towards justice is acknowledged as unfinished, ongoing, and never neglected.  Our keynote speaker reiterated that anti-racist work is constant; and that historically, campuses were built on a foundation of racism, with limited access and resources for minoritized groups. Therefore, it is all of our responsibility to eliminate barriers and take the necessary steps toward building an anti-racist campus.     

Previous Diversity Symposium Highlights

2004-2013: A wide range of DEI practitioners, clinicians, and guest speakers contributed to Harper’s DEI Symposiums. Past guest speakers included Dick Gregory and Tim Wise.

2014: Keynote speaker: James Wright “Unconscious Bias.”

2015: Theme: Global Aspects of Diversity and their Local Impact.

Keynote speaker: Steve Pemberton. Guest speakers: Dr. Michael Armato, Dr. Jeanine Ntihirageza, and Dr. Maria Krysan.

2016: Theme: Understanding Veterans and Deconstructing Gender

Keynote speaker: Kristin Beck. Guest speakers: Kelly Holt, a student veterans panel, and a panel discussion with the “Staff, Administrations and Faculty for Equality” (SAFE) Employee Resource Group.

2017: Theme: Student Persistence

Keynote speaker: Tom Brown. Guest speakers: José Leyba and Mario Rivas.

2018: Theme: Latinx Success Commitment at Harper

Keynote speaker: Dr. Michael Benitez. Guest speakers: Harper College’s Latinx Success Taskforce team.

2019: Theme: Indigenous Populations

Guest speakers: Dr. Anton Treuer and Adam Lopez.

2020: Theme: Disability and Ableism

Keynote speaker: Dr. Stephanie Cawthon. Guest speaker: Dr. Richard Reddick.

2021: Theme: Mental Health Awareness

A panel discussion was led by LaVonya Williams, DuBoi McCarty, and Jason Altmann. Guest speakers: Becky Fein, Jennifer Wegener, LCPC, CEAP, Andrew Wade, Stefan Bjes, M.S, Elle McClinton, Beth Ripperger, and Cindy Washburn.

2022: Theme: Understanding Systemic Racism: Past, Present, and Making it Personal

Keynote speakers: Dr. David Shih and Amanda Mesirow.

Last Updated: 3/10/23