Wilkes University

The Office of Diversity Initiatives develops and facilitates programming to educate our students for lifelong learning and success in a constantly evolving and multicultural world.

5th Annual Diversity & Inclusion Student Conference

Oct 22, 2022 | 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Rev. Shawn Walker

Wilkes University students are free. For non-Wilkes students, there is a charge of $25 per student to cover breakfast, lunch, snacks, and certificate. An invoice will be mailed to Diversity/Multicultural departments after the conference for payment.

Attire: Business Casual

Register now

For 20 years, Shawn Walker has been trying to help people turn their Potential into Performance. As a preacher, Shawn has been blessed to touch lives every week, pouring into all those who listen, a sense of hope. As a teacher, Shawn has been privileged to help people build a foundation of knowledge to build a life upon. As a coach, he has been given the gift to guide people and hold them accountable to the process, ensuring results, progress and ultimately success.

Shawn has been a versatile sales professional in Large Account Management, Corporate Sales, District Management, Business Development and a Strategic Accounts Director. Success in his profession was not enough to satisfy his soul. He began preaching in 2001, ordained in 2003 and serving churches and community ever since. He began coaching children as a basketball coach over 20 years ago and has inspired young men to go on and achieve…to reach their potential. Alongside all of that, in 2015, he was elected to the Wilkes-Barre Area Schoolboard as a School Director. He was the first black elected official in the city’s history.

9 a.m.

Breakfast & Registration

Location: Henry Student Center

9:40 a.m.


Speaker: Rev. Shawn Walker

10:30 a.m.

Session A: Impacting the Mental Health and Resilience of BIPOC College Community

Presenter: Heloise (Lois) Ridley, MBA, MA, LPC, NCC - Counselor, Wilkes University

The rate of change for BIPOC college students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic has moved at an alarming pace. Additionally, it has highlighted disproportionate amounts of stress and anxiety as well as reduced access to resources provided for students of color. In spite of these great odds, many BIPOC students have built upon their resilience and flourished.

Many others, however, have suffered intense challenges, which have led to educational setbacks. Intentional mental health strategies and community will be required in this rebuilding season to promote learning and healing. In this workshop, we will discuss how to build core resilience strengths for BIPOC students.

Session B: Social transitions - Why Embracing Trans Affirming Language Reduces Psychological Harm

Presenters: Laura Cushing, Dr. Jennifer Joyce, Karen Waldek - NEPA community, Geisinger Commonwealth SOM 

Contemporary society holds tightly to a belief in a binary of gender expression and gender identity. Many social structures are built on the notion that a person is either male or female. There is great social pressure then to fit into one or the other category. We will share with you our stories of resilience and hope facing the multi-layers of resistance to social transitioning from an individual, family, and community perspectives.

11:30 a.m.


12:30 p.m.

Session A: (MIS) Representation in the Media

Presenter: Dr. Kalen Churcher, Associate Professor, Communication Studies

More than perhaps ever before, we are saturated by media. But what messages do existing media platforms portray, and why is diversification of media so important? This session explores the process of giving underrepresented groups accurate representation in media and addresses why such portrayals should be sought by media consumers.

Session B: How to Be an Anti-racist (Zoom)


  • Tychelle Graham-Moskowitz, MSW, CDP DEI Educator, and Practitioner Co-host of BraveSpaceLive Podcast
  • Melody Stanford Martin, MDiv, Social Ethicist, Author of Brave Talk and Co-host of BraveSpaceLive Podcast
  • Alicia Govens, Assistant Director of Reslife at Wilkes University Co-producer of BraveSpaceLive Podcast

Everyone can become better anti-racist allies and advocates by growing in awareness of the realities of racism, gaining knowledge of the history and construction of systemic racism, decentering white normativity and contextualizing social locations, understanding the role of core beliefs and language, and learning tools for critical dialogue and self-education on the path to being a better advocate.

1:40 p.m.

Session A: Code Breaking

Presenter: Dan Kimbrough - CEO / Owner of Parkmultimedia

Language is more than how we communicate; it also speaks to who we are and where we are from. This presentation will look at what code switching is, why it's done, and the effects it has on how we view our authentic selves in public spaces.

Session B: Breaking Down Our Bias

Presenters: Jonathan Kadjeski, MA - Wilkes University & King’s College

This session will be to challenge our biases, using the 4 I's of the Oppression Framework. The discussion will focus on the ways subtle ideologies influence the way we work and learn within educational systems, and we'll offer concrete examples of ways we can disrupt systems of oppression by moving beyond mere tolerance and kindness. The discussion will also include activities that are designed to help participants identify internalized biases in a variety of settings beyond the classroom.

2:45 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Speaker: Erica Acosta

Fall 2022 Programs

Note: This list of programs is also available as a printable brochure.

Welcome to Our Neighborhood Social

Sep 13 | 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. | Max Roth Center

Meet and greet the Office of Diversity Affairs! Stop by for light refreshments.

Night on the Town

Sep 27 | 5 p.m. | La Tolteca

Night on the Town provides students the opportunity to experience a local area restaurant. The focus is on learning the history and customs of a cultural group through food and other activities.

Seating is limited, you must RSVP your seat with Erica.

Adulting 101

Oct 4 | 11 a.m. - 12 p.m. | Savitz Lounge

By: Erica Acosta, Director of Diversity Affairs

We will be going over some do and don'ts on how to go about requesting someone to be a reference and asking for a recommendation letter. Food will be provided!

Dr. Frank LittleBear

Nov 3 | 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. | Savitz Lounge

Frank LittleBear is of Cree Nation Ancestry. A renowned lecturer of Native American Culture, he is also a Musi- cian, Artist, and Author who has been recognized by uni- versities, colleges, museums, and historical societies.

11th Annual International Diversity Series: Women's Reproductive Rights

Artist as the Voice of Protest

Nov 14 | 11 a.m. | Savitz Lounge

By: Heather Sincavage, Associate Professor of Art & Director Sordoni Art Gallery

Artists assume the role of society's mirror. As rights are compromised, art acts as an important tool to form the social consciousness. Part of a contemporary art practice often includes social justice as part of creative motivation. Whether working within the museum or as part of a protest, artists move us to act by channeling injustice into visible forms that will support social change. Art activism has an extensive history.

This lecture will provide an overview of artists defending women's rights around healthcare and abortion rights, intimate partner violence, rape, and war.

Controlling Abortion Rights in Communist Romania

Nov 15 | 11 a.m | Savitz Lounge

By: Dr. Andreea Maierean, Associate Professor of Political Science

This talk will focus on the 23-year period in which Romania put a ban on contraception and maintained one of the most repressive reproduction policies of the twentieth century. We will examine the short and long- term consequences of the decision, including child abandonment and increased domestic violence.

Improving Maternal Health Outcomes

Nov 17 | 4:30 p.m. | Savitz Lounge

By: Dr. Troy Lynn Lewis, Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice

Each year in the United States, about 700 people die during pregnancy or in the year after. Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, such as variation in quality healthcare, underlying chronic conditions, structural racism, and implicit bias. Most pregnancy- related deaths are preventable. Come learn about racial disparities in pregnancy-related deaths and how we can work together to reduce Black maternal mortality.

Past Conferences

Education is Key

Keynote Speaker

Dr. Cassandra St. Vil, Founding CEO, Amateka College Prep

Understanding & Addressing Social Inequalities

Keynote Speaker

Blake Lamberti Mackesy, Ed.D., School of Education at Wilkes University Doctoral Department

Challenging our Unconscious Biases

Keynote Speaker

Vicki T. Sapp, Ph.D., Student Affairs Director for Student Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion Assistant Professor, Department of Clinical Sciences at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine

Connecting with Social Responsibility & Inclusion in Changing Times

Keynote Speaker

SRA. Joyce M. Avila, President of Cafe, Creating and Facilitating Equality