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Diversity Initiatives Panel Discussions

Diversity Initiatives Panel Discussions white font on black background with multi-colored mosaic lines framing the words. Logo for West Virginia University Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

3/29/21, Noon - Celebrating Women's HERstory Month: For All WomanKind (Recording)

Aisury Vasquez, Diversity Outreach Coordinator served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Ameya Jernigan, Junior Biology major, President-elect, West Virginia Student Government Association
  • Rosemary Ketchum, Member, Wheeling City Council
  • Meshea L. Poore, Esq., Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Natalie Tennant, former West Virginia Secretary of State

3/25/21, 6:00 p.m. - Transformative Justice: Healing, Not Harm (Recording)

J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Meshea L. Poore, Esq., Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Tracey Picou, Senior Multidisciplinary Studies major, President, WVU Chapter of NAACP and 100 Black Women
  • Mollie Kennedy, Community Outreach Director for ACLU West Virginia
  • Akeya Carter-Bozman, Prevention Specialist
  • Ash Orr, Chair, Morgantown Human Rights Commission


It is important to talk with one another about issues that impact our community. When we do, it provides opportunity for each of us to learn new information and gain new perspectives.

How will history books describe 2020? A year that marked the beginning of a new decade with promise, optimism and hope for some has quickly pivoted to reveal the inequalities in our society. In the midst of a global pandemic that continues to test our society in a variety of ways, we have become more aware of the structural oppression faced by marginalized communities. In recent months we have seen a resurgence in activism and visibility for racial minorities, the LGBTQ+ community and people with disabilities.

The West Virginia University Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, in partnership with campus leaders, hosted a series of panel discussions this summer, exploring the structures of oppression and creating an opportunity for the Mountaineer community to re-examine and relearn what it means to live in an equitable society.

You can access recordings of these discussions via links below.

6/23/20 - Identifying and Combating Structural Racism (Recording)

J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Linda Alexander, EdD, Senior Associate Dean for Academic, Student and Faculty Affairs; Professor – School of Public Health
  •  W. Constinia Charbonnette, EdD, Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs – John Chambers College of Business and Economics
  •  Cris Mayo, PhD, Director of the LGBTQ+ Center and Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies
  •  James Nolan, PhD, Professor and Chair of Sociology – Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

6/30/20 - Know Justice. Know Pride (Recording)

Each year in June the LGBTQ+ community and allies take to the streets to celebrate Pride. This year, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing protests against racial injustice and anti-Black violence, Pride 2020 serves as an opportunity for reflection. Pride traces its origins to resistance against police brutality - led by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. In this moment, we must recognize the intersections of identity and the ways racism, transphobia and homophobia are manifestations of the same structural disenfranchisement, and we must identify ways to work in solidarity as we envision a new community.

J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Megan Gandy, MSW, Ph.D., LCSW, Assistant Professor at Eberly School of Social Work
  • Jasmine Gonlin, Mountaineer Hub
  • Rosemary Ketchum, Wheeling City Council
  • Ellen Rodrigues, Ph.D., Assistant Director, LGBTQ+ Center

7/7/20 - Change: It's What YOU Do (Recording)

As the nation begins to grapple with how to reform our society into one that is equitable and actively anti-oppressive, the challenge of institutional change begins to emerge. While podcasts, reading lists and think-pieces are critical to the development of an anti-racist outlook, activating these perspectives can seem overwhelming. As a summer of reflection gives way to an autumn of action, understanding the ways that individuals can and should influence institutions is paramount. In this discussion, WVU scholar-activists outline proven methods and efforts that allow the mechanisms of change to become embedded.

J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Amena Anderson, PhD, Leadership Studies Program, Service Assistant Professor, WVU ADVANCE
  • Erin McHenry-Sorber, PhD, Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Higher Education Administration Programs in the WVU College of Education and Human Services, WVU ADVANCE
  • James Nolan, PhD, Professor and Chair of Sociology, WVU ADVANCE

7/14/20 - Insider/Outsider (Recording)

What does it mean to be American? In 2020, the idea of who is, is not and who gets to be a part of "Us" has become a centerpiece in our conversation. In the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asians and Asian-Americans are being targeted by xenophobic attacks. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Black Americans are declaring that their lives, too, matter. And with the recent modification to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program policy, we are again forced to grapple with the question of who gets the privilege of belonging in the United States. As we continue to reflect on this truly landmark year, the conversation turns to defining our community, and the implications of so doing.

 J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Gary Laruta, International Admissions Counselor 
  • William Rhee, J. D., Professor - College of Law at WVU  
  • Aisury Vasquez, Diversity Outreach Coordinator

7/21/20 - The Americans with Disabilities Act 30th Anniversary: Perspectives of Disability Inclusion (Recording)

 July 26, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Join our panel to discuss why disability rights are civil rights, to learn about WVU’s rich history of disability-centered service and inclusion, and for a critical dialogue about what remains to be done to capture the spirit and intent of this landmark legislation.

 J. Spenser Darden, Director of Diversity Initiatives and Community Engagement, served as moderator. Panelists included:

  • Lesley E Cottrell, Ph. D. - Director of WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, Professor/Vice-Chair of Department of Pediatric Research 
  • Jill Hess, M.A., CRC, ADAC - American with Disabilities Act Coordinator 
  • Daniel Long, Ph. D. - Director of Office of Accessibility Services 
  • Elizabeth Slavensky, MSW, PHR - Assistant Director, Talent Strategy 

West Virginia University is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive culture by promoting diversity, inclusion, equality, and intercultural and intercommunity outreach. The University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, age, physical or mental disability, marital or family status, pregnancy, veteran status, service in the uniformed services (as defined by state and federal law), religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or gender expression in the administration of any of its educational programs, activities, or with respect to admission or employment.

– Board of Governors Rule 1.6

Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

1085 Van Voorhis Road Suite 250
P.O. Box 6202, Morgantown WV 26506-6202

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