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Sessions Designed and Led by Students Shape Diversity Forum

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The 2021 Diversity Forum will feature six student-led and student-focused workshops covering various diversity and inclusion topics. We sat down with two student presenters to learn more about their sessions and why they want their peers to participate in the free, virtual 2021 Diversity Forum: Dismantling Oppressive Systems: Building Just Communities on July 26-29. 

It starts with one small change 

Julia Le, a senior studying biology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and her committee of fellow students aim to spark change with their session, “The Butterfly Effect and Reflecting on White Supremacy,” on July 28 at 2 p.m. The interactive workshop will ask participants to discuss how they may be contributing to white supremacy without realizing it. The session will focus on the power Pitt students have to dismantle white supremacy.  Below is a snippet of what you can expect during the workshop.  

What will your workshop be like? 

We’ll start with definitions including the butterfly effect and work our way up to talking about the pyramid of white supremacy. Then, we’ll have a facilitated discussion about incidents that have happened at Pitt to bring students relevant and engaging information. This workshop is entirely student led and geared toward the student experience at Pitt. 

What shaped the workshop, and why talk about the butterfly effect?

When forming the session, we looked at issues that that we think are present on campus as well as issues that we’re passionate about. We looked at the pyramid of white supremacy graphic and found it really interesting and moved forward with the idea of dismantling white supremacy which fits into the overall theme of the forum. The butterfly effect is the idea that one small change leads to bigger changes, so the idea behind the title was to spark awareness and change within our audience on an individual level. 

What will participants take away from your session? 

Our audience is going to be coming in with various levels of experience and understanding, so I’d really like them to have the ability to reevaluate themselves and the environment that surrounds them. We’ll be including debriefing and discussion questions that will be able to guide our audience on how to reflect and look at the things that surround them. 

Instagram: The place to digitally protest 

Last summer, college students across the country demanded change of their school administrations through digital advocacy. In response, universities wrote official statements and outlined plans to address on-campus social justice issues. But what did they post and what were the consequences? 

Ying-Tung (Ivy) Chou, a graduate student in the School of Education and lover of social media, has answers in her workshop, “Supporting Student Development in a Digital Age: Social Media and Student Activism in Black Lives Matter Movement,” on July 28 at 10:45 a.m. She told Pittwire more about the session.

What will your presentation be like? 

I used two student development theories, intersectionality theory and Yosso’s cultural capital theory, to look at student engagement and advocacy on social media. What I did was look at a bunch of social media accounts from individual Pitt students, Pitt student groups and official university statements both at Pitt and across the country. In this session, I’ll look at the how the digital student space is an extension of the campus and how students are changing policy online.

Is digital advocacy putting pressure on policy makers?

I think so. A great example of this is the University of Missouri’s partnership with the city’s police department. Last summer, their students took to social media and created a big movement. Eventually, the University decided to cut ties with the local police department and started a scholarship for students that are survivors or victims of police brutality. Digital advocacy makes a difference. 

What is something participants can take from your workshop? 

An understanding of the history of Black campus movements during the civil rights era and how student groups during the time, especially minoritized groups, used media like posters or flyers to begin movements and protest. And now, how media transitioned away from just on paper to digital. 

Start here

Are you new to issues of diversity and inclusion? Pittwire asked Le and Chou how someone can get started. 

“I started to develop my voice and kinda realize that I needed to use it more as I grew into being a student leader at Pitt,” said Le, who added that once you know what issue matters to you, look to what student organizations are doing on campus and get involved. For Le, who is an executive administrator of Pitt’s Graduate and Professional Student Organization, she looked to campus leaders who became unofficial mentors and inspired her to use her voice and advocate for herself and others. 

“Every person starts differently in some way. How I started was social media,” said Chou. “To me, social media is like reading. Blogs, Facebook posts, joining Facebook groups that are activist oriented — I learn a lot from people info-dumping.” In addition to the power of connectivity on social media, Chou also recommends a few Pitt resources: the PittEd Justice Collective, the First-Year Student Book Club and the Anti-Racism and Social Justice collection from the University Library System.

Additional student-led workshops

Ableism: Scratching the Surface
July 28 at 10:45 a.m. 
This workshop breaks down the existence of ableism in systematic, interpersonal and intrapersonal levels. Participations will gain the knowledge to not only define ableism on these levels but also reflect on actions they can take to make the world a less ableist place. 

American Interventionism and its Role in Southeast Asian Deportation
July 28 at 10:45 a.m.
This session will focus on the effects of American interventionism on Southeast Asian countries and will discuss theories driving American foreign policy around issues of deportation and refugee populations. Participants will gain knowledge about how American intervention has led to current refugee populations and the Southeast Asian diaspora.

Community Engaged Scholarship: Building Just Communities Through Asset-Oriented Research Related to Mental Health, Educational Equity, and Food Ecosystems
July 28 at 10:45 a.m.
This session will be led by a cohort of undergraduates engaged in the Community Research Fellowship sponsored by the University Honors College and feature relevant research from seven fellows. Their projects cover a range of issues including Black adolescent mental health and food ecosystems, insecurity and sustainability within the Pittsburgh region. Participants will learn how an asset-oriented approach in community partnered work can lead to the recognition of social systems that affect communities. 

Becoming an Anti-Racist Agent of Change Through Equitable Course Content: Perspectives from GSPIA Students of Color Alliance (SOCA) and the Cross Policy Program Anti-Racism Coalition
July 29 at 2 p.m.
This workshop will explore the way education influences behavior. Specifically, it will look at policymakers who have created harmful and discriminatory policies that have caused death or harm to marginalized communities. Participants will learn how to create a learning environment that supports diversity and inclusivity.