17th annual Diversity Symposium expected to be largest yet

Matthew Bailey

Maria Hinojosa speaks at the 2016 Diversity Symposium on Sept. 20. (Tony Villalobos May | Collegian)

Amidst a time in which racially-driven events such as the recent “Unite the Rite” rally in Charlottesville, VA or the noose hanging incident in Newsom Hall encourage cultural division and social injustice, the 17th annual Diversity Symposium offers the Fort Collins community a chance to explore diversity topics through different perspectives in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

Taking place in the Lory Student Center conference rooms, ballrooms and theater between Sept. 25-29, this year’s Diversity Symposium features four keynote address speakers and 121 session presenters who are mainly from Colorado State University and the wider Colorado area, the highest number of sessions at a Diversity Symposium yet. Topics will focus on a variety of issues ranging from affirmative action and black feminism to social identity and campus climate surveys.


In its 17 years of existence, the Diversity Symposium, originally called the Diversity Summit, began as an off-campus, one-day event held only for CSU deans, department heads and directors then grew into a free admission, five-day event open to the wider Fort Collins community.

Alicia Sprague, training coordinator for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity at CSU, serves as the coordinator and main point of contact for the Diversity Symposium this year. With the help of an assistance team, Sprague worked towards making the symposium accessible for faculty and students, introducing lunch sessions for the first time.

“We tried to plan the symposium around other events and we’re trying to make it accessible for faculty and students as well, so were hoping that we can have some pretty good attendance,” Sprague said. “We have a variety of keynote addresses this year which we’re really excited about and I think that will also drive attendance.”

The lineup of keynote address speakers this year includes award-winning journalist and Feminist Fight Club author Jessica Bennett; U.S. social psychologist and UC Berkeley psychology professor Dr. Claude Steele; Un-Standardizing Curriculum and White Bread author, teacher and activist Dr. Christine Sleeter; and award-winning scholar, leader, educator and Strategic Diversity Leadership: Activating Change and Transformation in Higher Education author Dr. Damon A. Williams.

Past keynote address speakers have included Equal Justice Initiative founder and director and New York University professor Bryan Stevenson, who presented about justice for illegally incarcerated African American and Latino men at last year’s symposium.

Sprague feels the only way to have honest dialogue with one another is if everyone is open to learning more about each other as human beings.

We’re only going to be able to move forward and ultimately build systems that bring justice if we can commit to learning about each other.”Alicia Sprague, training coordinator for the Office of the Vice President for Diversity at CSU, coordinator for 2017 Diversity Symposium

“I think we’re only going to be able to move forward and ultimately build systems that bring justice if we can commit to learning about each other and if we can commit to wanting to build a campus … and a community that is welcoming and inclusive for everyone,” Sprague said. “Because, at the end of the day, we all want to be happy and healthy and we all want our families to be happy and healthy and there are systems in the way of everyone achieving that, especially in the United States.”

Ultimately, the Diversity Symposium offers the chance for people to absorb new information.

“One of the purposes of the symposium is to invite the wider community as well as campus faculty and students to learn more about diversity and inclusion,” Sprague said. “I hope people come, I hope people will learn something new and that more importantly, they will take this learning with them out into the wider world, out into their classrooms, their dorm rooms, neighborhoods and try to apply it in a way that will bring us together.”

Collegian news reporter Matt Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @mattnes1999.