WSU graduate students create space to ignite conversations on diversity and inclusion


With diversity being a highly discussed topic in academia, particularly given the current social and political climate, Wayne State University will hold its first student-led diversity conference on Feb. 28-29, 2020, in the Student Center. The theme of this year's conference is "Voice, Identity and Inclusion."

Donyale Padgett, Ph.D., will offer a warm welcome to kick off the event. Padgett is an associate professor in the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts' Department of Communication. Her professional background includes over 15 years as a communication professional, where she has worked primarily in client service, business development and strategic planning. Padgett provides practical learning experiences to students by giving them the chance to help plan and develop communication projects for local nonprofit organizations that might not otherwise be able to afford professional communication services.

"This conference is an opportunity for us to showcase the university's mission of inclusive excellence," said Padgett. "It is an extension of our efforts to celebrate the diversity of thought and practice that is widely embraced by many in our campus community."

In addition to her teaching, Padgett is active across the university on initiatives related to diversity and inclusion and student engagement and retention efforts.

Keon Pettiway, M.F.A., Ph.D., will be this year's keynote speaker. Through his activism, Pettiway works to implement positive and inclusive change to academic scholarship and the community, with an emphasis in health communication, climate change and media representations of blackness. A rhetorical historian of race and visual culture, Pettiway has worked on digital humanities projects focused on civil rights public address, and he has published works that center on HIV/AIDS health campaigns focused on black women.

Pettiway's work also focuses on the identity and representation of African American communities and the significance of queer feminist media praxis. He believes that diversity and inclusion is an imperative, not an option, while also recognizing that it can be elusive to achieve.

"This conference is timely to rearticulate challenges and possibilities from interdisciplinary perspectives. I'm excited about joining community members, activists, students and colleagues across disciplines to reignite our commitments and strategies," said Pettiway.

"I am excited about the upcoming conference, 'Voice, Identity and Inclusion,'" said Marquita Chamblee, Ph.D., associate provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. "The student organizers have done an awesome job in bringing together what promises to be an engaging, thought-provoking and educational event."

Chamblee continued, "My hope is that this conference continues each year with even more student involvement in the future. We have awesome students at Wayne State - graduate, undergraduate and professional. This is a great opportunity to showcase their good work while also providing resources and information to conference participants."

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

Contact: Ariel E. Seay-Howard
Title: Chair, Communication Graduate Student Association (CGSA)

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