In early 2009, Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Diversity Committee discussed an idea by Helen Giron-Mushfiq to hold a diversity conference. Her suggestion became a project for the Diversity Committee, resulting in the implementation of a small conference in 2010.
In Fall of 2010, Dr. Jody Benabe, invited the Community College of Denver (CCD) and the University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) to join MSU Denver in planning this event, now titled the Higher Education Diversity Summit. The first tri-institutional Higher Education Diversity Summit was held in 2011 with the mission to embrace the ideals of diversity, equity and inclusive excellence.
The Higher Education Diversity Summit is an Auraria Campus initiative that promotes and increases professional development opportunities, which focus on the practice of inclusive excellence. MSU Denver’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion; CCD’s Diversity and Inclusion Council; and CU Denver’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, champion the planning of the Summit and share a commitment to diversity and social justice at their respective institutions.
The Higher Education Diversity Summit’s Steering Committee consists of representatives from across the Auraria Campus and partners from the community. The Summit continues to be held near April 4, to mark the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a connection to past leaders and their work on diversity, equity and social justice issues.
Over the years, the Summit has hosted expert speakers who are innovative and thought provoking. Past keynote speakers include Lilly Ledbetter, Clarence Lusane, Jose Antonio Vargas and Tim Wise. Topics presented and discussed include inclusive excellence, cultural competency, disabilities, ethnicity, privilege and class, religion and spirituality, gender and sexual identity, ageism and immigration, to name a few.
The Higher Education Diversity Summit has grown from 3 presentations to 33 peer-reviewed sessions and from 50 attendees to 700, in just a few short years. Attendees range in knowledge and skill levels, including students, faculty, staff and community members, all bringing important and varying perspectives to the inclusive excellence conversation.
In 2015, the Higher Education Diversity Summit introduced four content areas and a peer-review process, which has focused and elevated the sessions presented at the Summit. The Summit received a high number of quality proposals leading to a record number of sessions being included in the program.
The Higher Education Diversity Summit has grown into a major conference that is leading the conversation about diversity, social justice and inclusive excellence in Colorado. The Higher Education Diversity Summit continues to expand and improve in order to become a leading conference on diversity issues and inclusive excellence in the nation and beyond.