At the first Celebrate, Educate & Appreciate Diversity Conference at Eastern Oregon University, about 30 people attended — five of whom were conference organizers. Bennie Moses-Mesubed, EOU’s director of student diversity and inclusion, said she thinks many people attended because they were giving away two free iPads.

Now in its ninth year, the CEAD Conference is expecting approximately 210 attendees at the day-long event Saturday, including an estimated 170 students and representatives from Oregon Humanities, the Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Portland and Blue Mountain Community College.

The “freebies” are no longer the main draw, Moses-Mesubed said.

This year’s conference features diversity and inclusion workshops with an emphasis on social justice, leadership and empowerment. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m., and all activities take place in Badgley Hall on EOU’s campus in La Grande.

The diversity conference will kick off with a keynote at 9 a.m. in Huber Auditorium from Bill Imada. Imada is the founder, chairman and chief connectivity officer of IW Group, a minority-owned communications firm in Los Angeles. Senior EOU student Cooper Shaw, who is on the conference committee, said he is particularly excited for Imada’s presentation.

“I think he’s going to give a different outlook,” Shaw said. “I think it’s going to be inspiring for a lot of different people. He has a lot of experience with business and starting new organizations.”

Imada’s firm works with many of the top brands in the world including Coca-Cola, Lexus, McDonald’s and Walt Disney. He was also appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2014.

Next, there will be four workshop sessions led by presenters from around the country. One of the four, titled “From Whitetopia to Northwest Nice: Power, Privilege and Racial Diversity in Oregon,” will be led by Emily Drew, an associate professor of sociology and ethnic studies at Willamette University in Salem. The workshop will explore the issues of “exclusion, exploitation and disempowerment of communities of color” in the context of Oregon’s history.

The second keynote speaker, Temple Jordan, is an inspirational speaker and diversity, equity and inclusion consultant. Shaw said he expects Jordan’s presentation to be brimming with excitement

“I heard she’s really optimistic and brings a new type of energy to a big crowd of people,” Shaw said.

The second session of workshops will follow Jordan and are highlighted by a presentation from Pepe Moscoso, a Portland-based community arts producer. Moscoso’s work explores inclusion, identity, diversity and personal narrative in a variety of art forms.

“He’s going to bring a visual aspect that I think a lot of people will be able to connect to,” Shaw said.

Overall, the goal of the conference is to give students at EOU and community members a chance to learn from each other’s diverse life experiences.

“It’s really centered around people learning about different topics that are not necessarily talked about and brought up a lot,” Shaw said. “It’s really educational.”

See complete story in Friday's Observer

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