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Feb. 15, 2012
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab



SRU workshops celebrate ‘different voices’


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Three full days of diversity and inclusion workshops that involve students, faculty and staff from across the Slippery Rock University campus are designed to cultivate and promote the development of individual and collective thoughts and voices, said Jessamine Montero, senior officer for diversity and inclusion.

            The programs will run 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Feb. 27; 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Feb. 28; and 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., March 1. All sessions will be in the University Union.

            The event is designed to respectfully, educationally and with full rigor, uphold the tenets of higher education, she said.

            “This is the third year we have offered the programs, and we have seen increased participation each year. We want to bring all campus constituents together, to publicly structure and role model to strengthen both campus and public capacity to hear and nourish different voices; to serve as an engagement in conversations of respect with underrepresented, marginalized, excluded and/or excluded peoples on a level meeting ground in which all participate are equals; and as a commitment to ask how we, as intelligent and caring citizens, not only talk, but also walk, the challenge of the American experiment with pluralist democracy,” she said.

            “There is always something new and we always seek everyone’s perspectives. It is most important to note that this is a universitywide educational event that is created, coordinated and planned by the students, staff, faculty and administrators of the SRU community,” Montero said.

            “We know the program is packed, so we are urging people to stop in at workshops and lectures they may find interesting or eye-opening,” she said. “We want members of the University community to join any and all of the workshops that their schedules permit,” she said. “Some faculty may see sessions that tie directly to their classes and should urge their students to join in.”


Feb. 27:

            The day opens at 9 a.m., with “Battle Obscurity: Unvanishing Native Americans,” presented by Frederick White, associate professor of English, Rachela Permenter, a professor of English, and Pamela Soeder, professor of elementary education and early childhood. All three are Native Americans.

            At 10 a.m., representatives of RockOut, a campus organization that provides opportunity for personal growth and education regarding sexual orientations and social interaction among members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender queer, questioning and intersex communities, will talk about revealing their sexuality.

            A “herstory” of hip-hop dance and culture will be offered by “Get Rooted with Venus Fly Trap,” an all-female street dance crew, at 11 a.m. Teena Custer, SRU dance instructor, is leading the project.

            At 12:40 p.m., SRU dance majors under direction of Melissa Teodoro, assistant professor of dance, will perform the Fandango dance.

            “The Reflections Body Image Program: Improving Body Image in Women at SRU,” will be presented at 1 p.m., led by Jennifer Sanftner, SRU professor of psychology and student peer leaders.

            At 2 p.m., “Stories of Difference” will be offered by a student panel including those of different sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic status.. Christine Pease-Hernandez, assistant professor of communication, will serve as moderator.

            Kip Fulbeck, artists, spoken word performer, filmmaker and professor of art at the University of California, will offer a 3 p.m. workshop titled “Identity 101: Seeing Others, Projecting Ourselves,” focused on ways people judge and evaluate others – often incorrectly.

            Fulbeck, who has received UC’s Distinguished Teaching Award and was named a cultural pioneer at Harvard University, will also deliver a keynote address “Who Are You” at 6 p.m. The address will cover racial identity, dating, pop culture and tattoos. A book signing will follow.

            At 4 p.m. a panel of area leaders from various denominations will discuss “How Do ‘I’ Fit into Religion?” A question-and-answer session will follow.



Feb. 28

            Karla Fonner, assistant director of SRU’s Women’s Center and the Bridge Project, will provide training regarding victims of interpersonal violence and why they often have difficulty talking about the abuse at the hands of someone they trust at 8 a.m. Participants will be informed about available resources.

At 11 a.m., athletes with disabilities will lead, “A Paralympics Athlete Panel: Breaking down Stereotypes of People with Disabilities.” SRU’s adaptive physical activity program, the physical education department and the Center on Disability and Health will participate. Athletes who have participated in sports locally, national and at the Paralympics level will discuss their experiences.

Five SRU faculty and staff will lead the 12:30 p.m. workshop titled “The ADA and the University: Pedagogical Accommodations” that will focus on inclusion in terms of the kinds of accommodations SRU makes to aid students with disabilities. Panelists will include: Cindy Lacom, professor of English; Fonner; Linda Quidone, director of the Office for Students with Disabilities; Marybeth Miller, associate professor of physical education and Myra Balok, assistant professor of English.

At 2 p.m., Jonathan Anning, assistant professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences, will lead a discussion about “Our Race toward Respect for Ethnic Diversity.” The session is designed to urge participants to rethink their views on race and ethnic diversity.

Debra Davis, executive director of the Gender Education Center at Maple Grove, Minn., will deliver a 3:30 p.m. address titled “New Frontiers in Diversity: Transgender, The New Face on Campus.” Davis will explore gender and sexuality, including non-traditional issues.

She will also present a 6 p.m. address titled “Reading Rainbows: An Evening with Debra Davis: Transgender High School Librarian.” Her talk will explain how family, friends and workplace relationships change when gender changes. She will discuss her weekend change from a man to a woman and how the extreme right has struggled with the fact that people like her exist and that they are successful in their jobs and daily life.

Multiple SRU student organizations will join in a 5 p.m. roundtable discussion of African-American issues specific to the African-American community.

The day concludes with a 7:30 – 10 p.m. “2012 Gay and Lesbian Film Festival” presentation of the award-winning documentary “Tell.” Brad Kovaleski, director of SRU’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, and Laurel Dagnon, director of programming for the center, are co-directors of the festival. Following the movie, Catherine Massey, assistant professor of psychology, will lead a discussion.


March 1

            Shari Karn Mastalski, a 2007 and 2009 SRU graduate, opens the program’s final day with “Celebrating Diversity: Building Inclusion through Playful Art of Interplay” at 9:30 a.m. The community-based improvisation troupe will use creative art forms of interplay to create social change. Matalski will be joined by Sheila Collins, director of InterPlay Pittsburgh.

At 11 a.m. Fonner will present “Is Ours a Culture that Promotes Sexual Violence” examining increased media attention to sexual violence and how SRU is not immune from such acts. The workshop will examine ways the culture contributes to sexual violence and identify why and how things can be done differently to decrease sexual violence.

            Colleen Cooke, associate professor of parks and recreation/environmental education, and Massey will present a 12:30 p.m. workshop titled “Pathways to Inclusion of African-American Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students at Predominately White Universities.” The session will examine a study of colleges and university practices.. It will also offer ways to bridge the gap on such matters.

            Fonner will also offer a 2 p.m. session titled “What Would You Do?,” addressing interventions into interpersonal violence issues.

            Josh Blue, a nationally known comedian with cerebral palsy, will present “Putting ‘Cerebral’ in ‘Cerebral Palsy’” at 3:30 p.m., as a workshop, then offer his comedy act at 7 p.m. as the final event of the series.

The workshop will focus on his experiences as a person with a disability trying to break into mainstream comedy. He is also active in the U.S. Paralympics Soccer Team and competed in Athens at the Paralympics Games.

Blue, winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” also has a new Comedy Central special. He is a regular guest on Comedy Central’s “Mind of Mencia” and his story has been featured on Fox, CBS, ABC and MSNBC.

William Boggs, professor of English, and Ciarra Karnes, a psychology major from Slippery Rock, will present “The Invisible Diversity Issue: Poverty” at 5 p.m., examining the implication and the many types of poverty prevalent in today’s society, and specifically at SRU.

The Diversity and Inclusion Office, the Presidential Commissions on LGTQI, Disability, Race and Ethnic Diversity, and Women, and numerous academic departments, University divisions, and student clubs and organizations are sponsoring the three-day diversity series.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.