Rachael Forester ’12, M ’14 learned the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion at SUNY Cortland.
As a Cortland student during a time when the percentage of students from underrepresented groups rose from 14% to 23%, Forester was a program coordinator for orientation, then a residence hall director and ultimately the interim assistant director of multicultural life and diversity.
It all prepared her for her current role as the associate director of the Identity, Equity and Engagement Office at University of North Carolina (UNC) at Charlotte.
Forester, who tries to live by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” will deliver the keynote speech on “Critical Consciousness: Equity in the mirror” during the 11th annual Student Conference on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice on Saturday, April 18.
The conference, expected to attract approximately 300 attendees from 15 educational institutions across the state, will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Corey Union. The conference will feature 25 presentations and four sessions.
Forester, who joined UNC Charlotte in 2015, will speak at 12:30 p.m. in the Corey Union Function Room. Sponsored by the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office and the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association, her speech is free and open to the public.
Forester founded Activate! Social Justice Institute and White Consciousness Conversations at UNC Charlotte.
As she currently pursues a doctorate in educational leadership in higher education, her research focuses on understanding whiteness in student affairs and the effect that white privilege and white racial socialization has on those individuals seeking to effectively promote racial equity.
“As a social justice educator, I believe social change occurs through a critical understanding of self as it relates to our dominant and minoritized identities and how those identities are connected to systems of power, privilege and oppression,” Forester said.
She is a passionate advocate for anti-bias education, social justice, student development and creating expansive environments.
“My personal philosophy includes being hard on systems and soft on people as I strive to expand participation on the journey towards collective liberation,” Forester said.
At SUNY Cortland, Forester earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and childhood education and a master’s degree in English as a second language. She also studied Spanish.
The Student Conference on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice was created to provide undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to share their academic research, build their resumes and network with other students across New York state around the core values of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. The student-led conference allows participants to discuss the problems and concepts of campus inclusion efforts and to research and present across a wide range of disciplines. The conference aligns itself with the strategic goals of the SUNY system as well as those of SUNY Cortland.
Roman Rodriquez, a senior psychology major from Washington Heights, N.Y., who directs diversity, equity and inclusion for the SUNY Cortland Student Government Association, also will address the gathering.
Participation in the keynote lecture as well as other conference activities is free to SUNY Cortland students, faculty and staff, but registration by Sunday, March 1, is required. For others including SUNY Cortland alumni, visit the conference 2020 website for details on the early and late registration fees. The price for all registrations includes a breakfast buffet, lunch and giveaways.
Conference organizers have issued a call for presentations through March 1. A committee will review the proposals on or after that date. Suggested presentations formats are a research session, panel discussion or creative arts/performance/poster presentation.
For more information, contact the Multicultural Life and Diversity Office at 607-753-2336.