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Student Diversity Conference Draws More Than 500 Students

Student Diversity Leadership Conference at North Park University

CHICAGO (October 26, 2009) – Senior Jessica Correa is a multicultural relations advisor at Aurora University, in Aurora, Ill., and one of her responsibilities is to help mediate misunderstandings when they arise between students on her campus.

The North Park University Student Diversity Leadership Conference she attended on Friday, October 23, gave her a wealth of new ideas on how to be more effective, she said after the half-day event.

Correa was one of more than 220 students from 20 colleges and universities located around the Midwest who attended the conference, which also registered nearly 330 North Park students.

Brenda Salter McNeil, a nationally recognized speaker on diversity issues, opened the event with an inspiring message that answered the question, “What does it mean to understand human differences?” Students then participated in workshops they chose from topics that included “Diversity in Campus Ministries,” “Leaderships Skills Influenced by Faith and Spiritual Formation,” and “Cultivating Intercultural Competency.”

Most of the workshop leaders were North Park staff and faculty, but several came from as far away as Washington, D.C., and Texas. The students, many of whom traveled several hours, said the conference was worth the early morning wake-up call.

Alisha Martin, a junior at Greenville College, in Greenville, Ill., said she especially appreciated discussions of how to maintain the balance between assimilation and affirming different cultures.

“It was a great conference,” said Gabe Bain, of Taylor University in Fort Wayne, Ind., adding that he gained a better understanding of the challenges in communicating across cultures.

Fellow Taylor student, Erik Solomon, echoed Bain. The son of a Cuban father and a mother from the Dominican Republic, Bain emphasized he has needed to learn how to communicate across distinct subcultures even within the Latino culture.

North Park students inspired the idea for the conference, says Terry Lindsay, conference chair and North Park’s dean of diversity and intercultural programs. The dean organized a leadership conference in 2008 that was open to just North Park students, but they advocated holding a second event that would be open to others, as well.

The conference was a natural fit for the University because of North Park’s strong emphasis on preparing students to live, lead, and work in a globalized society. He added that students, faculty, and staff modeled multicultural cooperation. “It’s been a wonderful collaborative project.”

North Park sent out invitations to every Christian and private college and university in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana, Lindsay said.

Plans already are underway to hold a full-day conference in 2010.

Download a copy of the Conference Brochure