March 1, 2016

College Forum on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Set for April 27, 7-9 PM; to Be Streamed Live

Rhianna Rogers, student mentor, assistant professor in Cultural Studies and co-convener of the Interdisciplinary Studies area of study. Photo/Empire State College
Rhianna Rogers, student mentor, assistant professor in Cultural Studies and co-convener of the Interdisciplinary Studies area of study. Photo/Empire State College

A SUNY Empire State College-hosted statewide forum will offer an insightful dialogue about the ways diversity and inclusion impact college learning environments and greater communities.

Topics related to immigrant, LGBTQ, minority and community cross-cultural experiences will be explored at this upcoming event, Forum on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion, from 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, April 27.

The forum will be accessible to the public online, live through ESC-TV. College employees and students also may watch the live webcast at some of the college’s distributed locations.

The forum seeks to address cultural misunderstandings in recent national news, which have triggered discussions about the role of cultural diversity and inclusion in institutions of higher education.

Panelists include:

  • Andrea Cammarata, community outreach coordinator, Journey's End Refugee Services
  • Leslie C. Edwards ‘96, a part-time mentor and an associate with the college’s writing center
  • Chris Gioia, a graduate student currently enrolled in the college’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program
  • Kathleen McLean ‘13, a motivational speaker, trainer, facilitator and business/life coach
  • Gina C. Torino, a member of the college’s faculty in Human Development.

The event is co-sponsored by the Graduate Student Collaborative and the Buffalo Region Student and Alumni Business Club. The forum will be moderated by Mentor Rhianna Rogers, assistant professor in Cultural Studies and co-convener of the Interdisciplinary Studies area of study.

“Across every campus, college, or university, we should be discussing best practices to encourage cultural diversity and inclusion in our communities,” said Rogers. “Higher education institutions have the opportunity to demonstrate that a collegial approach to addressing diversity and inclusion can have a real impact across the nation and help to develop a safe space for discussing such very important topics.”

The forum poses a series of questions to the panelists: “How do you define cultural sensitivity and inclusion? With the current discussions in higher education around cultural inclusion and sensitivity, how do you view yourselves in this conversation? How are we being culturally diverse and inclusive?”

About the Panelists

About Andrea Cammarata

Andrea Cammarata is a community-outreach coordinator with Journey's End Refugee Services, a resettlement agency. Cammarata also served as the campus minister and senior class religion teacher at Nardin Academy, where she met a family that survived the genocide in Rwanda.

This experience led her to a career at Journey's End, working to advance the success of refugees in the communities where they live and work through community relations and education.

This year, the agency will settle 510 individuals, primarily from the countries of Bhutan, Burma, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Pakistan and Syria.

Journey's End offers many services to newly arrived refugees, including employment programs, vocational training including janitorial and culinary programs, legal/immigration services, English-language classes, an alternative to high school program, interpretation, mentoring/citizenship and many others.

About Leslie C. Edwards

Leslie C. Edwards ’96 is a part-time mentor and an associate with the college’s writing center.

For more than 20 years, Edwards taught high-school English in the Rochester City School District.

Currently, as a member of the college’s faculty, she mentors SUNY Empire students in English composition, journalism, communications and literature.

Edwards’ particular literary interests include African, African-American, Third World, class, gender and folklore perspectives.

She also is a storyteller with the Blackstorytelling League of Rochester and a historical researcher and a re-enactor of Rochester Underground Railroad.

About Chris Gioia

Chris Gioia is currently enrolled in the college’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program. Gioia is focusing on public history and is interested in museum exhibitions and programming.

He also studied fine art and art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Gioia has worked for several museums, including the Museum of the Moving Image and the Museum of the City of New York. This experience includes the areas of visitor services, retail/product development and public programming.

About Kathleen McLean ‘13

Kathleen McLean ’13 is a motivational speaker, trainer, facilitator and business/life coach with more than 20 years of experience. McLean, who earned an MBA in Administration Management from SUNY Empire, is president of the McLean Group, which specializes in leadership development, team building and organizational health.

She has built more than 35 leadership teams utilizing her leadership skills and her ability to connect, inspire and turn conflict into inclusive solutions.

McLean also serves as the executive director of Let’s Share the Sun Foundation. Let’s Share the Sun facilitates the use of solar energy in poor communities around the world, in order to enhance the quality of life of people living in those communities.

About Gina C. Torino

Gina C. Torino is a member of the college’s faculty in Human Development and a licensed psychologist in the state of New York.

Torino’s scholarship and research focuses on cultural competency in clinical practice and higher education, as well as racial and gender-based “microaggressions,” which are characterized as subtle but offensive comments or actions directed at a minority or other nondominant groups that often unintentionally or unconsciously reinforce stereotypes.

Her scholarship, in the form of several articles, have been published in academic journals.

Torino has been a featured speaker and conducted numerous workshops and trainings on how to create culturally sensitive and inclusive environments in schools and private industries.

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