CommUNITY Conversations

Let your voice be heard! Community Conversations is a signature event organized by the Office of Institutional Equity & Diversity. These proactive conversations are the place for your voice to be heard! We are building an inclusive community, one conversation at a time.

On October 26th, The Sum of Us author Heather McGhee addressed an audience of over 140 students, faculty and staff members, colleagues of Sentara Healthcare, and community members about the intersections of justice, discrimination, practical change, and the powerful growth that can come from working together.

The Sum of Us follows Heather McGhee on a cross-country journey as she explores the origins of economic inequality in America. Along the way she meets many people who confide in her about losing their homes, their dreams, and their shot at better jobs to the toxic mix of American racism and greed. Despite this, McGhee offers hope and an empathetic view into a multicultural America.

She was hosted by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity as part of our CommUNITY Conversations series, held in conjunction with the Monarch Task Force for Inclusive Excellence and Sentara Healthcare's Employee Resource Groups.

Past Events

In observance of Black History Month, the Office of Institutional Equity and diversity hosted "Black Fatigue: Resisting, Persisting, and Thriving" as part of its ongoing CommUNITY Conversations series. This student-centered program highlighted the ways racism impacts the mental health of students of color and discussed how social media perpetuates trauma in the lives of Black and Brown students. Held on February 8, 2023, a panel provided students with culturally competent ways to manage their mental well-being, ways to set healthy boundaries, and understanding their baseline (triggers/traumas).

Panelist for this conversation included:

  • Dr. LaConda Fanning, Director| Graduate Medical Education| EVMS
  • Dr. Cassie Glenn, Assistant Professor, Director| Clinical Psychology, YR² Lab| ODU
  • Dr. Darylnet Lyttle, Director| Student Health| ODU
  • Dr. David Taylor, Chair| Sociology and Criminal Justice| Hampton University

Held November 10, 2022, and sponsored by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the College of Arts and Letters, the English department, and the Office of Campus Life and Diversity at Norfolk State University, "This is Tsenacomoco" highlighted the Indigenous Cultures of the Powhatan peoples, a once mighty confederacy of Native American tribes whose territory was much of Eastern Virginia, including the land on which ODU and NSU stand today. The purpose of the presentation and panel discussion was to bring awareness to the rich histories of this land, to pay tribute to the original inhabitants, and to recognize their enduring relationship to the land. It was also an opportunity for us to strategize on becoming responsive to the needs of our Indigenous communities. Currently, members of ODU and NSU are working to establish a land acknowledgement for use on each campus.

Participants Included:

  • Dr. Drew Lopenzina, Professor| English| ODU
  • Kole Matheson
  • Hailey Holmes, Project Manager| Virginia Tribal Education Consortium
  • Kara Canady, CEO| Virginia Tribal Education Consortium
  • Dr. Lauren Eichler, Lecturer| Philosophy & Religious Studies| ODU
  • Dr. Andrew Fisher, Associate Professor| History| William & Mary
  • Keith Anderson, Chief| Nansemond Indian Tribe

Making Equity Visible in Healthcare of African Americans

On February 23, 2022 a virtual CommUNITY Conversation was held that focused on Making Equity Visible in Healthcare of African Americans. This conversation was co-sponsored by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, the President's Task Force for Inclusive Excellence, Eastern Virginia Medical School and the American Red Cross.

Panelist for this conversation included:

  • Dr. LaConda Fanning, Director| Graduate Medical Education| EVMS
  • Dr. Janice Hawkins, Clinical Associate Professor| ODU School of Nursing
  • Rev. H. Patrick Cason, Senior Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church (Chesapeake, Virginia)
  • Iris Lundy, Director, Senior Director of Health Equity |Sentara| ODU Alumni
  • Katie Niehoff, Executive Director| American Red Cross

View the Recording

CommUNITY Conversations 2.0

Welcome to CommUNITY Conversations 2.0! This podcast series was created to continue conversations beyond the month of recognition and/or observance.

Episode 2

Equity Dr. Luisa Igloria Vertical

An Intergenerational Conversation on Violence Against Asian Americans

This episode features Virginia's Poet Laureate Emeritus and ODU Professor of Creative Writing Dr. Luisa Igloria and her daughter Gabriela Igloria, a senior and President of the Filipino American Student Association (FASA). They spoke with us about the long history and continued pattern of racism and violence against Asian Americans across the country, the intersectionality of social justice, and the ways stereotypes mistakenly inform identity.

Episode 1

Equity Fifth Sun Aztec

"Fifth Sun"

Our first episode features the work of American historian Dr. Camilla Townsend who serves as the Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University. She has written Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, in which she explores the complexity of the history of the Aztecs based solely on the texts written by the indigenous people themselves and through the lens of Aztec women. Dr. Townsend was intervied by our very own Drs. Angelica Huizar and Veleka Gatling.


Commonwealth Outreach

Diversity Commonwealth Outreach

On Tuesday, March 8th, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity and the Monarch Task Force for Inclusive Excellence hosted Diversity Dialogue Day, programming created by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC). 60 students and educators from 6 high schools across the Tidewater region came together to participate in workshops focusing on "Stopping Stereotypes in Schools."

The day opened with a visit from ODU's very own Big Blue who greeted, danced, and took photos with the students as they entered the Webb Center. A representative from the Office of Admissions extended a welcome to the campus and provided information on why ODU should be their university of choice. Serving as a collaboration partner, Paula Miller from Dominion Energy also welcomed the group and explained the importance of this type of programming to the workforce.

Led by facilitators representing Tidewater Community College, the YWCA, and ODU, students participated in activities that challenged them to think critically about their own environments and where they see stereotypes show up in their schools. While in breakout groups, students were asked to identify situations in which they or someone they knew had been left out, excluded, or discriminated against because of stereotypes. This led to a conversation around bystanders, upstanders, and allies, the difference between the three, and how they could create communities of upstanders and allies. At the end of the day, students came back to the North Cafe to share what they learned and to devise an action plan for their respective schools.

Two members of the Monarch Task Force for Inclusive Excellence, served as group facilitators: Dr. Mitsue Shiokawa and Christina LiPuma. The task force is a group of highly skilled faculty and staff members who work together to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all aspects of the campus community. "I was impressed with the passion these students possess, the richness of their perceptions concerning stereotypes and diversity, and the ways in which they shared what actions are needed for change," remarked Dr. Shiokawa. As a former middle and high school English teacher, Dr. Shiokawa felt it was important to be involved with Diversity Dialogue Day to help the youth not only identify stereotypes, but also to aid in finding their voices to speak out, to share their experiences, and to brainstorm solutions.

For 88 years, VCIC has continued to evolve with the changing social and political climate of the Commonwealth. Founded in 1935 on the campus of Lynchburg College (now the University of Lynchburg), a multi-faith, multi-religious cohort met to respond to the Antisemitic, Anti-Catholic feelings of the era. Local Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders organized to develop educational programs of communication and understanding. This founding group called itself the Lynchburg Roundtable, and soon local chapters were established across Virginia, including here in the city of Norfolk.

VCIC has come a long way from promoting interfaith understanding, to responding to the racial, religious, and ethnic changes throughout the Commonwealth for nearly nine decades. Their one-day youth seminars, summer teacher workshops and student institutes, as well as middle and high school programming have become pivotal in forwarding their mission of "achieving success through inclusion." This organization realizes that constructive and inclusive dialogues don't just happen, but require careful planning, intentional design, and clear communication.

Dialogue Diversity Day is hosted four times a year throughout various regions within the Commonwealth. Old Dominion University and VCIC have been in collaboration for over 10 years. In fact, a fall 2022 session of Diversity Dialogue Day was held at the ODU Peninsula Center. For more information on Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) and their programs, please visit their website.