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Conference on Diversity Set for March 27

Conference on Diversity Set for March 27


SUNY Cortland will offer the inaugural SUNY Cortland Student Conference on Diversity, Equity and Social Justice on Saturday, March 27.

The one-day conference, focusing on the theme of “Imagining Communities Without Walls,” will take place from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at various locations in the College’s Corey Union.

Keynote speaker Arlette Miller Smith, a scholar in black literature, educator, poet, vocalist, motivational speaker and dramatist, will chronicle the lush literary history and culture of her African American people at 10:25 a.m. in the Function Room.

The conference registration deadline is Friday, March 19. The fee, which covers a continental breakfast and lunch, is $30 for students, $35 for SUNY Cortland alumni and $40 for faculty and staff. Students who present a paper at the conference will receive a $5 discount.

Payment by check or purchase order will be accepted. Registration forms should be sent with the payment check made out to SUNY Cortland to Ann Cutler, Multicultural Life Office Conference, P.O. Box 2000, Cortland, NY 13045. For purchase order information, call Cutler directly at (607) 753-2336.

The full schedule, registration form and conference details are available on the Multicultural Life Office Web site under “Programs and Initiatives.”

The student-organized conference was established to provide college students with an opportunity and a venue to share their research. The event will allow participants to explore issues across a wide range of disciplines and gain an understanding of how those issues intersect with diversity, equity and social justice. The deadline has been extended to Monday, March 8, for students to submit academic research proposals they wish to share at the conference. Submissions should be e-mailed to Review and notification of acceptance will take place by Friday, March 19.

The program is sponsored by the New York State Office of Diversity and Equity in Education (ODEE), the SUNY Cortland Affirmative Action Committee and the SUNY Cortland Multicultural Life Office.

As an educational dramatist, Miller Smith blends gospel music with the words of African American poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, Gloria Wade Gayles, Etheridge Knight and her own work.

Miller Smith’s lectures make use of her passion for words, rhythm and rhyme; her training as a college professor of African American literature at St. John Fisher College; her creative and developmental writing and composition abilities; her desire to be a sultry singer of songs; and her upbringing in her native Vicksburg, Miss., during the searing 1960s.

She moved to St. John Fisher College in 1997, where she founded and developed its Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Programs. An associate professor in the English Department, she also co-directs the African American Studies minor.

In 1995, Miller Smith founded AKOMA, Rochester’s African American women’s gospel choir. That year, she became the first layperson and the second woman to deliver the Greater Rochester Martin Luther King Commission’s King Day address to some 1,200 visitors at the Eastman Theater.

Her poem, “In Anticipation of You,” was published in the 2009 book Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady (Nevergold and Brooks Bertram, eds.) and featured on National Public Radio and the Democrat and Chronicle online.

Miller Smith’s original work has been featured in several local programs, including the WGRC documentary, “MALCOLM X,” which included her epic poem, “Mind Over Malcolm,” and the Strong Museum’s one-woman show, “Measuring My Soul Against the Tape of Another Man’s World.”

For more information, contact Multicultural Life Office intern Cheri Skipworth at (607) 753-2336 or e-mail