Rowan’s DEI hosts third annual Summit on equality and equity

Keynote speaker Dr. Brittney Cooper is a professor, commentator and an author. - Photo via Rowan University

Rowan University’s third annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Summit was held on Monday, April 10, with the theme of “Equity Through Action: What’s Your ETA?”

The summit and its theme aimed to get the students, faculty and all others involved to reflect upon their own role in society, what they have been doing and what they could do more of to increase equity and equality in their own communities and in broader society.

Dominique Pierson is the assistant director and manager of the Office of Social Justice, Inclusion and Conflict Resolution and the DEI Summit Committee Chair. 

“We know that students are looking for spaces they feel they belong and to build community. And as we reflect on where our university is at, in contrast with or in similarity with the rest of the world,” Pierson said. 

The 9 a.m. summit was held entirely virtually through WebEx. The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which only began in 2019 and was the first of such divisions at an institution of higher education in the state, has been holding these summits annually since 2021.

This year’s summit featured keynote speaker Brittney Cooper Ph. D., an associate professor at Rutgers University of New Brunswick in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She has also written several books on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, identity and the impacts the intersection of these factors can have on one’s life and role in society.

“We are looking for co-conspirators,” said Cooper, meaning that for social and societal equity to be obtained, the causes need people who are willing to consider what they are willing to risk and put it on the line to make change for the better.  

Students and faculty who wished to be a part of or attend the event were required to register beforehand, with over 130 registrants signing up in total. Attendance fluctuated throughout the event, with the peak being around 120 virtual attendees signed into the WebEx meeting.  

Raymond Wos Jr. is the assistant vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“The DEI Summit this year was virtual and we were able to get a variety of community members within the South Jersey region and beyond. We had a fantastic turn out with all the panels and discussion that we had and our keynote speaker, Dr. Brittney Cooper, provided power and her personal experience within her life. It was truly an engaging and enlightening day,” Wos said.

Some students also spoke and gave presentations on the themes of equity and social justice. Kathryn Seu gave one of the student presentations.

“I presented on ‘white guilt’ being a justification for social and political resistance to critical race theory. It is important to make sure that the platform Rowan provides is being used to bring awareness to this misinterpretation of critical race theory. Being white, it is extremely important to me that I speak out and advocate for what I believe in so that my privilege is being put to good use,” Seu said. 

According to Pierson, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, specifically the DEI Summit Committee — which has already begun the early stages of planning next year’s summit — has expressed interest in holding the summit in person in the future. The post event survey they sent out to attendees includes a question about if those in attendance would have interest in the prospect of future events being in person, virtual or some combination thereof.  

“My hope is we increase attendance, my hope is that we get folks from outside of the community to engage with Rowan,” Pierson said. 

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