Diversity and inclusion conference encourages students to pause

Posted on Apr 18 2017 - 6:37pm by Briana Florez

The UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media will host a five-day conference called It Starts With (Me)ek Wednesday through Tuesday. The purpose of the conference is to make students think before stereotyping or judging others.

The conference will feature students, faculty and alumni on various panel discussions and lectures concerning race, mental health, religion, disabilities and sexual orientation, as well as a lecture from Fox News chief news anchor and former Ole Miss journalism student Shepard Smith.

A committee of 31 students with ranging talents and backgrounds has been working since January to plan for the conference. Senior broadcast journalism and Spanish major Rachel Anderson is the co-chair of events. Anderson said there was a three-step process to creating the campaign’s message.

“First, we conducted preliminary research through surveys and focus groups in order to understand the current climate in the Meek School,” Anderson said. “Committee members then helped brainstorm ideas for potential events. Afterwards, the committee separated into smaller groups to tackle the different components of organizing a campaign like social media, event planning, competitions.”

The committee decided the message of the conference would be: “Just pause. Just pause before you assume you know me. Just pause before you stereotype me.”

Senior lecturer in public relations Robin Street said It Starts With (Me)ek first began when she put on a campaign for the Meek School in 2011 called “Diversity Rocks.”

“At that time, I went to Dean Will Norton and Associate Dean Charlie Mitchell and asked if they would support me in putting on that campaign in the newly formed Meek School,” Street said. “Their support was immediate and unwavering. They are two of the finest gentlemen I have ever met.”

However, Street said it was Norton and Mitchell this time around who came to her and asked if she would put on another campaign this year.

“They were troubled over the continuing and even escalating tensions in our country and state,” Street said. “I was, in fact, hesitant to do it again, but I knew in my heart that I could not say no.”

Sophomore integrated marketing communications major Kelly Fagan said she is most looking forward to attending Shepard Smith’s lecture.

“His name holds a lot weight in the professional world, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to listen to such a successful journalist speak on campus,” she said.

Anderson said she hopes the conference will help participants realize everyone has some things in common.

“We hope attendees will pause before making assumptions about someone because we all have more in common than we think,” Anderson said. “We hope everyone will realize that one factor is not enough to define who someone is.”

All events will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium or on the lawn of Farley Hall.

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