Featured Speakers 2020

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Melia Dunn | Tuesday, November 3rd | 9:30am - 10:50am

Session Title: Privilege: Unseen, Unacknowledged and Undermining Equity and Inclusion

Session Description

In this session, participants will gain a broader impression of the breadth of differences that contribute to societal privilege.  Through exploring common unproductive behaviors that show up in allyship, they will see and understand the insidious nature of privilege, how it perpetuates and preserves systemic oppression. Applying Melia's EMBRACE model, participants will take away a strategy for personal development to advance social justice.

Speaker Bio

Melia Dunn is the founder of Melia Dunn Consulting - inclusion, embraced. Be it through program design, leading teams, community engagement or facilitating workshops, her 20-year career has always been rooted in the intention to do good.  Along her path, brave voices called her attention to practices and behaviors inconsistent with that intention, doing more harm than good. And then, shift happened. Her commitment to un-learning dominant culture practices, shedding her savior complex and demonstrating effective allyship took root. These practices remain core to her work as a diversity, equity and inclusion specialist. With humility, she offers an honest examination of her experiences from the cringe-worthy to the redeeming.
Melia has a B.A. in Speech Communication with an emphasis on Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Resolution from Penn State University.  She earned a Master Inclusion Practitioners certificate from The Center for Transformation and Change. Prior to consulting work, Melia’s work included anti-bias education with the Anti-Defamation League, international community development serving in Peace Corps Albania and development work with human services as well as, arts and culture organizations. Melia is an unapologetic cat person who simultaneously holds dog people in high regard.


Dr. Michael Benitez  |  Wednesday, November 4th  |   10:00am - 10:30am

Keynote Address: The Conviction Behind the Work: Towards A Critical Understanding of Inclusive and Equity Practice 

A highly sought out speaker at colleges and conferences nationwide, Dr. Michael Benitez is a nationally-acclaimed scholar practitioner and educator in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. Dr. Benitez is known for his down-to-earth, insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues, ranging; leadership and identity development, intersectionality, race and ethnicity, postcolonial thought, knowledge production, and critical pedagogy and practice in higher education.

Dr. Benitez has authored book chapters and articles on student identity, hip hop culture, cultural centers, cultural and ethnic studies, institutional research and campus climates, and faculty development. He is co-editor of the anthology, Crash Course: Reflections on the Film “Crash” for Critical Dialogues About Race, Power and Privilege, and has contributed to online magazines, scholarly databases, books, and journals. Benitez has been featured in educational documentaries such as Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity and has appeared on talk shows such as Worlds Apart, Hard Knock Radio, and Speak out with Tim Wise.

Part of his success lies in his ability to speak heart-to-heart while bridging theory and scholarly inquiry with everyday life, his use of accessible language that multiple audiences can relate to, and his deep knowledge and practice of innovate equity and inclusion-based strategies and approaches to address some of higher education’s more pressing campus climate issues of today, providing multi-context and issue frameworks for empowerment and transformation. Benitez has helped create, shape, and lead such innovate programs as the Diversity Monologues- a critical spoken work initiative he has helped implement and shape at multiple institutions, the campus climate community participatory framework, and the Northwest 5 Consortium for supporting faculty of color.

Over the last two decades, Dr. Benitez has served higher education in different capacities, including; academic and student affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; EEO and Title IX compliance, and teaching. Dr. Benitez has served as Director of Diversity Initiatives at Dickinson College, Director of Intercultural Development and the Black Cultural Center at Lafayette College, adjunct faculty in the Graduate School of Leadership and Professional Advancement at Duquesne University, Director of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership at Grinnell College, and Chief Diversity Officer/Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, and Title IX and EEO Officer at the University of Puget Sound. Presently, he serves as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Metropolitan State University, Denver.

Dr. Benitez completed both his B.S. and M.Ed. at the Pennsylvania State University, where he gained interest in pursuing doctoral studies as a TRIO student and McNair Scholar. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy with a focus on Social Justice in Higher Education, from Iowa State University School of Education, and has been recognized with multiple leadership and scholarly awards, throughout his career.

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