Photo caption: Eau Claire, the city of bridges, welcomes the Oct. 12-13 Toward One Wisconsin conference 2021: Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers.
The state’s third annual Toward One Wisconsin conference, an equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiative, will take place virtually Oct. 12-13.
An initiative of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS), the conference, based in Eau Claire, brings together leaders and transformative thinkers in EDI from all sectors of business and life in Wisconsin with one common goal for development in the state — Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers, the theme for this year’s conference.
Conference attendees will include representatives from K-12 and higher education, business and industry, state and local workforce development, health care, youth organizations, vocational rehabilitation, government, nonprofit organizations and faith-based groups.
The two-day event will present speakers, resources, tools and best practices that align with four prioritized content tracks:
- Increasing opportunities for inclusion in Wisconsin’s workforce.
- Creating inclusive communities.
- Cultivating equity in education.
- Building health equity in Wisconsin.
Visit the Toward One Wisconsin website for registration details for this virtual event.
A focus on Eau Claire
The first two host cities for the Toward One Wisconsin conference were Milwaukee and Green Bay. For this third gathering, organizers plan to showcase all the EDI work and collaboration going on in Eau Claire, work that campus and city leaders trust will help build on the state's EDI momentum.
UW-Eau Claire is a leading sponsor of the conference, and Chancellor James Schmidt will introduce one of the three plenary speakers, Wisconsin’s current poet laureate and creative change agent Dasha Kelly Hamilton. The other invited speakers are Jelani Cobb, New Yorker staff writer and national speaker on race, history, politics and culture in America, and Hmong American writer/filmmaker Kao Kalia Yang.
Sharon Hunter, event organizer with Toward One Wisconsin, is thankful for the support and energy that UW-Eau Claire faculty, staff and administration have brought to the event.
“We are so pleased that Chancellor Schmidt will be introducing our first speaker, and we’re truly grateful for all the conference involvement and leadership from campus,” Hunter says. “Their collective commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion brings valued expertise to these important statewide discussions.”
Fifteen Blugold faculty, staff and emeriti are slated to present over the course of the two days (see list below), and nine have served as co-chairs, advisors or committee members for each of the four content tracks.
In recognition of the critical role that the arts play in all matters of EDI, the conference has named an event resident artist, Dr. Dorothy Chan, assistant professor of English at UW-Eau Claire.
“I’m very pleased to have been selected — especially as a member of the English department,” Chan says. “The topics of this conference are often part of the content we teach through examining literary arts. As a queer woman, poet of color who prioritizes teaching texts from marginalized voices and writers of color, these ideas are very important to me.”
Chan also emphasizes that her participation as the event resident artist demonstrates to her students that “we can all take our passions out into our communities to help make positive change.”
Master of ceremonies for the event will be Dang Yang, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at UW-Eau Claire and co-chair of the Chippewa Valley Transformation Project, a city-based anti-racism task force.
“Initiatives like Toward One Wisconsin at the state level and the Chippewa Valley Transformation Project are building on long-standing local EDI efforts like the Juneteenth events from Uniting Bridges of Eau Claire; Chippewa Valley Pride in the Park, hosted by the Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center; "Conversations in Color," hosted by Converge Radio; and so many others,” Yang says.
“Our EDI efforts on campus are one additional piece of the community work, and I’m excited that this conference will provide a platform where we can all come together to share our successes and strategize the next steps for our communities and our state.”
Caitlin Lee, the administrative program specialist for affirmative action at UW-Eau Claire, attended the first Toward One Wisconsin conference in 2019 with then-city manager Dale Peters and Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, professor of history at UW-Eau Claire and 2021 conference steering committee member.
Along with a boost in energy and best practices for implementing EDI efforts in Eau Claire, the trio came away with a shared desire to bring the state conference to Eau Claire.
“We just knew that the goals of this initiative aligned really well with everything already happening on the ground here in Eau Claire,” Lee says. “So, we pulled together a team to write the proposal to bring it to this city.”
“This conference uses the Wisconsin Idea of bringing experts together to solve problems,” Ducksworth-Lawton says. “Here we can showcase public-private partnerships, city and university partnerships, community-building efforts — Eau Claire is leading in ways to enable Wisconsin to be proactive on this front and not reactionary.”
Campus conference participants
Among the many conference presenters are the following UW-Eau Claire campus members: Dr. Emily Freeman, Dr. Pamela Guthman, Kelly Mahoney (student), Dr. Heather Ann Moody, Jamie Tester Morfoot, Jenna Priest (student), Kim Schmidt, Dr. Katherine Schneider, Mackenzie Shakal (student), Dr. Kaia Simon, Emily Studinski (student), Breylynn Updike, Emily Webster and Sabrina Wilson (student).
Campus committee members for Toward One Wisconsin conference
The conference steering committee includes Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, Dr. Pamela Guthman, Dang Yang and Mike Knuth.
The committee for creating inclusive communities includes Dr. Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, Dr. Gerardo Licon, Teresa O’Halloran, Dr. Katherine Schneider and Kim Schmidt.
The committee for cultivating equity in education includes Teresa O’Halloran and Dang Yang.
Lastly, the committee for building health equity in Wisconsin included campus representation from Dr. Pamela Guthman and Jamie Tester Morfoot.