Diversity conference stresses leadership


Students participate in workshops during IU's First Diversity Conference on Friday at the Indiana Memorial Union. Nicole Krasean

IU alum and ESPN sports anchor Sage Steele credits Bill Armstrong, the late president of the IU Foundation, for changing her life.

She met him while working as a waitress at Bobby’s Colorado Steakhouse.

“You never know who you’re going to meet,” Steele said. “He helped me get an internship in the IU Athletic Department.”

Steele stood in front of about 1,000 IU students, staff and community members in Alumni Hall on Friday for the first Diversity Leadership Conference.

Steele was one of the morning keynote speakers at the conference, a collaboration between the Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development and the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program.  

The conference is a combination of two separate conferences from past years: the OMSLD’s Men and Women of Color Leadership Conference and the HHSP’s LEAD Conference. This is the first time the two were merged.

The theme of the conference was building social capital and establishing a social net worth in a diverse world.

This theme is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Themester, “Connectedness: Networks in a Complex World.”

Smith said the purpose of the conference was to get students to think about ways to expand their resources in their social networks in order to lead and live successful lives.

Steele talked about experiencing diversity overseas while her dad worked in the military. She talked of how she felt racism from both white and black people as a biracial woman in the United States.

She said she never let intolerance stop her from working to achieve the dream she had since the 8th grade: becoming an ESPN sports anchor.

“You can do anything if you have a good core,” Steele said. “No one can tell me that I didn’t earn it.”

Steele also told the audience members that when they say they embrace diversity, they need to mean it.

Rafael Sanchez, Indianapolis WRTV 6 consumer investigative reporter and Franklin College graduate, also spoke to students at the conference. He emphasized the importance of branching out to different people in order to increase social net worth.

The Dominican reporter ordered everyone in the room to get up, sit somewhere else and meet someone they didn’t know.

Sanchez told the audience it’s important to network and take initiative.

“You have to either be at the table or be on the menu,” Sanchez said, “Many people will want to control your lives. Be at the table, or other people will decide for you.”

Patrick Smith, executive director of the Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development, and Marsha McGriff, director of the Hudson and Holland Scholarship Program, served as the co-committee chairs for the conference.

Smith said she encouraged students to take out their phones and tweet about their experiences using the hashtag #iudleaders.

“It just made sense,” Smith said about merging the two conferences. “We had a discussion about how we could best leverage our resources to the benefit of all our students.”

The conference included several sessions ranging from expanding leadership skills to advocating for change through grassroots organizations.

Students could also attend a career fair that included many companies such as Google and Discover Financial Services.

Hudson and Holland alumnus Johnathon Lancaster attended the career fair at the LEAD conference two years ago.

Now he’s on the other side of the table working at a Fortune 500 company and talking to students about getting a job or an internship.

“I actually had an offer in place my senior year by attending the conference,” Lancaster said. “When I went to the LEAD conference I really focused on how I could sell my brand."

IU associate dean of students Carol McCord said even though IU has a long way to go with diversity issues, the conference was a step forward.

“This event is wonderful, and I was really proud to come to campus today and have over 900 people involved in this activity,” McCord said, “I’m proud of IU and the work that it did today.”

Follow reporter Aaricka Washington on Twitter @AarickaWash.

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