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Conference explores diversity issues and community

| Monday, April 4, 2016

In response to Saint Mary’s College’s selection of “community” as their core value this year, the Saint Mary’s Student Diversity Board has chosen the theme for their 11th annual Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference (DSLC) accordingly, molding the conference around the idea of “unity in community.” The conference will take place today and tomorrow, April 4 and April 5.

Senior Angela Bukur, vice president and conference chair of the Student Diversity Board, said she hopes this year’s attendees will leave the conference with a new perspective on diversity.

“I hope students take away something that they didn’t know from before,” Bukur said. “That they take a perspective in a different way, meet a lot of people and become leaders in their own communities, as well as realize that diversity is important.”

Bukur said the fact that the conference is entirely student-run makes it more rewarding for students.

“It helps start dialogue,” she said. “It helps students to attend events and talk about things they normally wouldn’t.”

Bukur said DSLC’s mission is to provide awareness of diversity by educating and uniting the Saint Mary’s community.

“It’s such a broad topic — you can’t get it all,” she said. “We have tried to bring together different aspects of diversity — different parts of religion, sexuality, race and social class.”

The conference will tackle these aspects through seven different sessions in which faculty will lead discussions about diversity issues in their professions, Bukur said.

Senior Cinthya Benitez, a Student Diversity Board member, invited not only students to attend the conference, but faculty and staff, as well.

“Faculty and staff are also invited to learn about topics students are interested in,” Benitez said. “It brings the Saint Mary’s community together and builds unity, as our logo says.”

There will also be three keynote speakers at the event: Mary Burke, Kristi Pellegrini and Bree Newsome.

Burke ‘85, member of the Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees, is an experienced investment banker in the food industry and a founding partner of Lakeshore Food Advisors, LLC, a boutique investment banking firm in Chicago, according to the Saint Mary’s College website.

Pellegrini ‘09 is a postdoctoral research assistant at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Bukur said. According to Bukur, her current research focuses on the chemistry of nuclear materials.

The final keynote speaker to conclude the conference is activist and filmmaker Bree Newsome, Bukur said. Newsome is known for removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House grounds. According to Bukur, she was arrested for her act of civil disobedience, but the publicity her act generated spurred state officials to permanently remove the flag in July 2015.

As a member of the Board, Benitez said the conference is a worthwhile experience.

“It’s always a great experience,” Benitez said. “I learn a lot and I come out of it more culturally aware and inspired as a multicultural student. I hope students gain awareness, learn new things and get inspired to make changes on campus and outside of Saint Mary’s.”


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