UNI hosts DiversiLead conference



Award-winning journalist and Waterloo native Nicole Hannah-Jones delivers the keynote address during UNI’s DiversiLead conference, held on Saturday, March 20.

NIXSON BENITEZ, Executive Editor

On Saturday, March 20, UNI held the DiversiLead Conference. The in-person conference, which took place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., was designed to connect the UNI community with community members of color and underrepresented individuals for learning, leadership training and networking.

The event had limited seating and gave students a chance to hear from four featured speakers and a keynote speaker during three different workshops.

The first workshop, “Leveraging Your Network,” was led by Yolanda R. Williams, who is currently the Director for the Classic Upward Bound TRIO program at UNI. From building your personal statement to getting that personal coffee, Williams emphasized the importance of connections.

She explained that networking is a five-step process: dressing for the occasion, practicing introducing yourself in the mirror, preparing materials, arriving early and finally, making that connection. Students got to practice this during the workshop.

Next, Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Janine Baeze and Associate Director of Freshman Recruitment and Access Jesús Lizarraga Estrada presented “Too Tired to Code Switch.” Through this workshop covering the topic of code switching in a professional setting, students got to discuss some of their experiences and were instructed on how to navigate through white spaces.

Many conversations were taking place in the room, and students spoke out on some of their experiences which were empowering. The presentation left students exposed to some of their peers’ experiences.

The third session featured keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning investigative reporter originally from Waterloo, Iowa, and moderator Jamie Butler-Chidozie, UNI’s Director of Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice. Their conversation focused on the topic of “Reframing Your Vision,” and students got the opportunity to ask the award-winning reporter questions about her journey.

One question in particular that stood out to Jones was “What is your why?” She spoke on her experiences of having to take the bus that took her to school and seeing the segregated landscape.

Dr. Quinton Angelo Richardson finished the conference with “Ready? Or Not? Zoom and Online Learning: The New Norm for 2021 and Beyond.” From uncovering the history of the World Wide Web to discussing how current events have led students into 2021, attendees got to engage with Richardson on issues surrounding the growth of Zoom and online learning.

Richardson mentioned that at the end of 2019, Zoom had ten million people utilizing the app each day. However, in April of 2020, that number had increased to 300 million daily active users. Richardson emphasized the new norm and gave students nine tips which could maximize the experience of online learning. 

At the end of his presentation, Richardson had students participate in a game of Family Feud in which winners could choose one of six letters containing money ranging from nothing to $100.

Contestants were competitive and, following a tie, the game went to overtime. In the end, the winner selected the envelope with $20.