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 Four-part SRU series to examine 'Diversity and Democracy' 



March 3, 2010

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


Four-part SRU series to examine 'Diversity and Democracy'      


            SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University will offer a universitywide, four-part, educational series titled "Diversity and Democracy at SRU: Identification, Development, and Expression of our Selves and our Communities," as a way of publicly engaging the community on important campus issues.

            "The series has been created, coordinated and planned by the students, staff, faculty and administrators at SRU," said Jessamine Montero, senior officer for diversity and inclusion and assistant professor and director of the Act 101 Program. "Equally important, the series will also be implemented, presented and engaged in by students, staff, faculty and administrators."

            The series opens March 16 and continues March 30, April 15 and April 20.

            >Speakers will include Tony Norman, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, Sharon Fries-Britt, a national researcher, and Keith Knight, the cartoonist behind the "K-Chronicles."

            "The series will open, or continue, discussions on how we are able to provide and uphold academic freedom, integrity and discourse while at the same time honoring and being sensitive to our diverse opinions and identities. The Diversity and Inclusion Office intends to have an educational series each fall and spring semester as a way to cultivate and promote the development of our individual and collective thoughts and voices - respectfully, educationally and with full rigor. In so doing, we uphold the tenets of higher education as well as the United States of America itself," she said.

            The overall purpose of the series is to bring all campus constituents together, to publicly structure and role model the strengths of both campus and public capacity to hear and nourish different voices, engage in conversations of respect with underrepresented, marginalized, excluded and/or excluded peoples on a level meeting ground in which all participate are equals; and provide 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, Montero said.

            "Members of the campus community are invited to attend all four sessions, which will offer multiple panel presentations and speakers. "Participants may attend all of the day's events, or just those that fit their schedule. Each day is focused on a central, common theme," she said. 

            Sessions will be offered at 11 a.m., and 12:30, 2, 3:30 and 5 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room of the University Union.

            The plan calls for the four days to walk participants through the developmental progression of how individuals and groups develop identities, express identities, deal with conflict/dissonance involving identities and ally with one another given those identities.       

            Each workshop panel will have a moderator facilitating and guiding participants to practice and model effective listening and communication skills using the following workshop guidelines: Each panel workshop session will have 45 minutes of presentation, with at least a half-hour set aside for open discussion. The moderator will control the portable microphone, selecting those volunteering to speak in turn. Anyone who attends a session will have the opportunity to make observations, statements, assertions, arguments or claims. However, before such observations may be made, the person handed the microphone must be able to restate the previous statement or claim in a manner that satisfies the person who uttered it.

            Norman, a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, will be the opening day program's featured speaker as part of the Walwik Freedom of Expression Lecture at 12:30 p.m. in the University Union. The lecture is sponsored by the late SRU Professor Emeritus Theodore Walwik. 

            Norman joined the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's city desk in November 1988 when he was hired to input letters to the editor and answer phones. While serving as a clerk the first year, Norman identified niche beats he could make his own while making a name for himself. 

            After finishing his regular shift as a clerk, he'd cover pop music for the features desk. His industry and familiarity with genres like gangsta rap and alternative music made him an invaluable part of the Post-Gazette's coverage of popular music and culture in the early 1990s. Norman was named the Post-Gazette's pop music/pop culture critic in 1990.

            He has been a much sought after commentator on cultural issues and a frequent guest on local talk shows and television programs. In 1996, Norman asked for and was given responsibility for a general interest column. The move rejuvenated his interest in the kind of journalism that makes a difference.

            Since he began writing the column Norman has garnered many national, state and local awards, including the 1999 first-place honor in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for newspapers with a circulation of 100,000 and higher. He also won first place in the Keystone, Golden Quill and Pittsburgh Black Media Federation competitions. He also won a second place National Excellence in feature writing award for columns from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors and a Matrix Award from Women in Communication. As a 2005-2006 Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellow, Norman traveled the world.

            In 1999, Norman, a native of West Philadelphia, joined the Post-Gazette's editorial board. He is a regular commentator for KD/PG Sunday Edition and he is an adjunct journalism instructor at Chatham College where he serves as an adviser to the staff of the Communique, the school newspaper.

            Other highlights of the March 16 program, "Development of Identities in a Democratic Society," include an 11 a.m. "Who Am I and What do I Bring to SRU?" panel discussion featuring panelists Shatreece Johnson, a social work major from Erie; Holly McCoy, SRU assistant vice president for diversity and equal opportunity; Courtney Tolbert, a resort resource management and tourism major from Willow Grove; and Montero. 

            At 2 p.m., "Being BLANK at SRU" will be the topic with panelists Nicholas Barcio, resort resource management and tourism major from Erie and president of SRU's Student Government Association, Colleen Cooke, associate professor of parks, recreation and environmental education, Catherine Massey, associate professor of psychology, Maria Mullin, a clerk typist in the Multicultural Development Office, Marisa Taylor, a community counseling graduate student from Fairview, and Christophas Walker, assistant professor in Academic Services.

            "Welcoming Diversity" will be 3:30 p.m. topic with features a panel comprises of National Coalition Building Institute members.

            "How Hate Perpetuates" will take the floor at 5 p.m. with panelistsBrett Barnett, assistant professor of communication, Tymesia Brown, an English major from Pittsburgh, and John Craig, professor of history.  

            The theme for March 30 is "Expression of Identities in a Democratic Society" with Sharon Fries-Britt as the featured speaker. The April 15 session titled "Conflict of Identities in a Democratic Society" will feature a media barrage of various ethnic and cultural communities' experiences. The series final presentation April 20 will offer award-winning K-Chronicles cartoonist Keith Knight, speaking on injustice and image justifications.


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.

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