March 21 Unity in Diversity Days

March 21, 2024: Unity in Diversity Days

Our two-day event is available for Merrimack faculty, staff, students and community members. Please review the schedule below.

Looking for the March 20 Schedule?
Speaker Bios

Schedule for Day Two - March 21

8-9:15 a.m. – Rejecting “Normal”: The Big Barrier to Being Truly Inclusive

Speaker: Bryan Mascio
Introduction: Kathryn Welby
Location: Arcidi A

 Many times, concerns about inclusion are focused on how to help a person or group feel included in an already existing setting – whether that is our schools, workplace, or social gatherings – and proposed solutions are focused on accommodations or ‘fixes’ for that excluded person or group. This workshop will take a different approach, re-examining what is commonly taken for granted as ‘normal’ in order to reveal hidden barriers to being truly inclusive. Participants will see how and why the very concept of normal should be re-evaluated and rejected, leaving with a new lens and some ideas of how to be more inclusive in classrooms and society.

10-11:50 a.m. – Conversations with Warriors for Students: Expanding Perspectives One Story at a Time

Speaker: Andrea Wamboldt
Location: Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher

“Conversations with Warriors: Expanding Perspectives One Story at a Time” is an experience where courageous members of our community share their life story about overcoming prejudice, stereotypes, or other major life challenges generally misunderstood or misrepresented by the general public.
Each table has a different conversation taking place and participants will be able to visit 3 – 4 tables during the session. These conversations are interactive, so come prepared to ask and answer questions. Learn more about this session at: Conversations with Warriors: Expanding Perspectives One Story at a Time.

Noon-2 p.m. – Conversations with Warriors for Faculty and Staff: Expanding Perspectives One Story at a Time

Moderator: MT Dávila, Associate Professor and Chair, Religious and Theological Studies
Speakers: Anne Gatling, Winston School of Education and Social Policy, Jaleh Dashti Gibson, Winston School of Education and Social Policy, Linda Tankersley, School of Arts and Sciences, Lauren Rocha, School of Arts and Sciences, Tahir Hameed, Girard School of Business, Inès Ouedraogo, School of Arts and Sciences, Justin Bowen, School of Arts and Sciences, Rachel Aghara, Winston School of Education and Social Policy, Jennifer Evans, Winston School of Education and Social Policy
Location: Collegiate Church of Christ the Teacher
Lunch will be provided for faculty and staff

With the goal of “building community one story at a time”, Conversations with Warriors: Faculty and Staff Edition provides a space for faculty and staff to listen to each other’s stories, reflect together about the themes of meaning, belonging, diversity, challenges and perseverance, hope, and identity, among others. We believe that listening to each other in trust and solidarity brings us closer together as colleagues and friends.

Noon-1:50 p.m. – What’s the problem? The Meaning and Impacts of Food Injustice

Speaker: Cynthia Carlson, Eleanor Shonkoff, Christopher Stuetzle, Elaine Ward
Location: Arcidi A

In Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Food Bank estimates that 42% of households with children experienced food insecurity in 2020 – 2021. Food insecurity can have serious short and long-term consequences for children’s health, and Hispanic and Black non-Hispanic children are at higher risk for food insecurity. In this presentation, the Food Justice Research and Action Cluster (FJRAC) will facilitate a high level discussion and presentation about the Food Cycle, including how food makes it from farm to table, both locally and nationally. They will discuss the challenges and bottlenecks of the system, and how it intertwines with social, political, and economic systems to generate food insecurity and injustice in many parts of the country. The talk will include a workshop and discussion.

2-3:15 p.m. – Talking STEM: Gendered Experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Speaker: Debra Michals, Brandi Baldock
Introduction: Melissa Spencer
Location: Arcidi A

STEM majors and careers are among the fastest growing in the US – two times faster than all other professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – and while the number of women in STEM majors and professions continues to grow, their experiences can be discouraging. Women make up roughly one third of STEM professionals, but men continue to outnumber them in most fields. At the college level, while similar percentages of individuals from all gender and racial/ethnic groups initially select to be collegiate STEM majors, students with identities marginalized in STEM (women, racial/ethnic minorities) are significantly more likely to switch majors after facing disappointing experiences in science cognate courses,3 even after achieving comparable grades.4 This is one reason that women and people of color remain underrepresented in STEM fields. Indeed, they face a wide range of challenges in pursuing these degrees and professions, from being discouraged from majoring in STEM, to experiencing discrimination, exclusion, condescension, sabotage, to anxiety and confidence gaps, to feeling generally unwelcome in classrooms and departments.

This panel/workshop/roundtable invites faculty and students to engage in a conversation about what it means to be a STEM student (and later professional) for those who are in the underrepresented categories: women, people of color, LGBTQ+. We will address both challenges but also strategies for navigating such issues as: gender bias in the classroom, microaggressions, imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, as well as the pay gap, motherhood penalty, and performance criteria gap once in the professions. We will look at data, discuss student experiences on campus and beyond, and we will envision together solutions including mutual mentorships, creating support networks, and ways faculty could help address and improve the student experience. Ultimately, our goal is to come together to consider what would make students’ classroom and career experiences better.

4-5:15 p.m. – Voting Café

Moderator: Kadie LaFlamme
Speakers: Samantha 
Lassey, Charles Gendreau, A’mari BingWay, Cody Schram, Joely Ortiz, Jaydahruis Levy 
Location: Cascia Hall

In this workshop, participants will take part in semi-led discussions that will explore the electoral process, voting, and civic participation. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in respectful dialogue, share experiences, and exchange knowledge with others in the Merrimack community. The informal, inclusive, cafe-style setting of this event encourages meaningful conversations and fosters connections regardless of political views. While engaging with one another, participants can explore ways to take action and enhance civic participation both locally and beyond. Be on the lookout for Democracy Dialogues: The Main Dish, coming Fall 2024.

4-5:15 p.m. – Fostering Inclusion and Accessibility: A Panel of Merrimack Students and Recent Alumni with Disabilities

Speakers: Haley Dufton, Mackenzie Reynolds, Isabel Fernandes, Nathan Persampieri, Alex Krupski
Introduction: Lori Corcoran and Sarah Simmons
Location: Arcidi A

This panel of Merrimack students and recent alumni with various disabilities will discuss their experiences both in the classroom and in the workplace. Panelists will discuss: their own identities and intersectionality; self-advocacy and accommodations; disability disclosure in college versus the workplace; and their personal experience is transitioning from higher ed to internships and careers.

About the Event

Unity in Diversity Days, a two-day program, now in its seventh semester, was launched by the President’s Initiative on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). The program features a diverse group of community scholars, leaders, artists and advocates, designed to broaden and deepen our understanding of systemic inequalities and intersecting identities. A diverse lineup of speakers will share knowledge and strategies, designed to enhance our awareness and understanding, inspiring us to nurture spaces of belonging and communities rooted in accountability and intersectional justice.

This campus-wide programming is sponsored by the President’s initiative on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in collaboration with the President’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, the Office of the Provost, the Office of Intercultural Initiatives, and the Office of Counseling and Wellness Education. 

Who Should Attend

All events are in person and are free and open to the public, with the exception of a few that take place during closed Merrimack classes.