Students in the Pamplin College of Business are aiming toward opening a dialogue about inclusive excellence in workplaces and classrooms, with the seventh annual Multicultural Diversity Conference on Saturday.
The Pamplin Multicultural Diversity Council is hosting the event. PMDC, which is student-run, hopes to train students to manage and work effectively in multicultural and multiethnic work environments.
The conference is not exclusive to upperclassmen or students in Pamplin. Josh Albert, an accounting graduate student and PMDC co-president, said this year, the largest number of registrants are freshmen — a difference from previous years — and many different colleges and majors are represented.
Workshops this year will include presentations by Altria, Ernst & Young, Freddie Mac, Frito Lay, The Hershey Company, KPMG and Target.
The corporate attendees do not pay to come to the conference, but rather serve as sponsors, developing relationships with PMDC.
Students at the conference will participate in workshops, as well as gain opportunities to network and seek employment.
Diane Crawford, the Hershey Company’s diversity and inclusion director, will be at the conference for the first time and plans to focus on interactive workshops.
“At the end of the sessions, students will see how important an inclusive environment is to productivity and to learning — those are some of the principles and practices that we use in our workforce,” Crawford said.
Each corporate attendee will give a presentation on various examples of diversity in the workplace. For its presentation, Target will be talking about generational differences and interacting with the different age
“The conference invites corporate sponsors to Tech to share their best practices and to celebrate diversity in the sense of what (students) can expect when they go into the corporate world,” said Yalana Orr, the PMDC faculty advisor.
Orr said the workshops focus not only on fundamental aspects of learning the appropriate languages necessary when working with different ethnic groups, but also on how to be a leader in inclusive excellence.
“For us, diversity means difference. It means being able to embrace differences in all aspects,” Orr said.
Currently, there are 75 students registered for the conference, but Orr and Albert hope to see more. The conference
is open to students at any academic level or major, and registration is open until Friday.
For the second year, James Madison University will be sending students to the conference.
“I’m proud of the fact that our students are leaders in a way that other schools want to model themselves after us,” Orr said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
William Lewis, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion senior vice president at Tech, will be giving the keynote address titled, “Becoming an Inclusive Leader of the 21st Century.”
“Becoming an inclusive leader in the 21st century really is about becoming a leader who is aware of oneself and becoming sensitive,” Lewis said. “That’s what diversity is all about in my mind — how we embrace the
Lewis said he looks forward to seeing students engaging at the conference.
“Tech has a strong infrastructure in place. I am excited about the leadership of Pamplin and the enthusiasm,” Lewis said.
Crawford stressed the importance of college students recognizing the benefits of diversity and inclusion at a young age.
“We are taking a proactive approach,” Crawford said. “If we can catch them earlier, by the time they enter the workforce, they are more accustomed and more aware of diversity and inclusion and the benefits of it.”
PMDC often discusses multicultural competency skills, which refer to how students interact and engage in thoughtful conversation through developing appropriate language, as to refrain from offending anyone.
“It isn’t just on Saturday that we embrace diversity,” Orr said. “It continues in our daily practices, it continues in our interactions with each other.”