UA center to hold diversity conference
The UA Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing is celebrating diversity within the workplace with the first “Fitting in While Standing Out” Diversity Conference.
The idea for this conference was developed last semester, when the center’s directors heard from both students and employers that everyone within the industry field could benefit from more education and exposure to diversity, said Abra McAndrew, the center’s assistant director of student leadership and development. McAndrew said she immediately began working with student ambassadors to put together a conference, the goal being to create opportunities that both students and employers could learn from.
“Diversity is a tool to do things that have never been done before and to serve customers in a way that they’ve never been served before,” McAndrew said.
The conference will open at 8 a.m. on February 21 for sign-in and will begin at 9 a.m. The first speaker will be Dwight Lavender, a group manager at Target. He will be followed by a panel of UA alumni who work in the retail and industry field. Breakout sessions held next will offer a closer, more interactive look at three key issues within the topic of diversity: women in the workforce, LGBTQ issues or mentorship. Students are given the choice of which breakout session they would like to attend.
The conference will end with a talk by Dave Schechter, a vice president at Nike.
This is the first conference of its kind being held at the UA, but event organizers said they hope it will become an annual event. It is open to the entire school, and the organizers are working to make it beneficial for anyone who wishes to attend.
“How to fit in with a culture while still being able to be yourself is a really important aspect, and that’s what we want to bring,” said Tuyet Tran, a student ambassador for the center.
The conference is being sponsored by companies including Target, Macy’s and PetSmart.
The Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing is one of the UA’s Centers of Excellence, and is dedicated to creating a link between academia and industry. It is open to the entire university and provides many opportunities to students. Martha Van Gelder, the director of the center, said she believes strongly in the importance of the Centers of Excellence.
“One of our main missions … is to have U of A students stand out as leaders of the industry,” Van Gelder said.