A History of the AJCU Conference on Diversity and Equity

By William Johnson, Associate Dean of Students, Fairfield University

Representatives from Jesuit colleges and universities at CDE 2011 at Xavier University (Photo by DJ Todd, Marquette University)


Representatives from Jesuit colleges and universities at CDE 2011 at Xavier University (Photo by DJ Todd, Marquette University)

The AJCU Conference on Diversity and Equity (CDE) has experienced a number of changes throughout its 35-year history. As one of the older AJCU Conferences, CDE has been a voice for diversity, multiculturalism, access, and inclusion within the AJCU network since 1981, when it was founded as the Conference on Multicultural Affairs (CMA). From its beginnings, our students have been the central element inspiring the work of the Conference. Concerned administrators and faculty members have gathered annually to discuss institutional policies and practices that affect students, faculty, and staff of color; LGBTQ students and professionals; and other minorities. Through CDE, they share their own journeys and experiences working on Jesuit college and university campuses.

Sababu Norris, director of the ALANA Student Center at Canisius College, is a long-time participant in the Conference and has held multiple leadership positions over the years. He says, “Offering valuable support to students and colleagues, CDE creates, educates, and as a bonus, invigorates its membership. CDE provides an impressive network of experienced and accessible leaders.”

Collaborative Work

Individuals from all areas of our campus communities are encouraged to participate in the activities of CDE, thus allowing participants to engage in discussion on a broad-range of issues and topics effecting Jesuit colleges and universities. CDE participants include, but are not limited to, representatives from faculty, academic affairs, multicultural affairs (including LGBT and women’s centers), student support services, residence life and admissions.

DJ Todd is the coordinator of the Marquette University Urban Scholars Program, and also serves as the CDE Vice Chair and Interim Parliamentarian. He says, "Being [together] with faculty and student affairs professionals at the table makes this an exciting place to be. There are rare concrete examples where faculty and student affairs professionals genuinely come together with the pure intent on understanding all facets of our scholars’ lives. CDE is cura personalis in action.”

Many CDE participants were present at last summer’s JASPA (Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators) Five Year Institute at the University of San Francisco. In lieu of the Conference’s traditional annual meeting, those involved with CDE were able to gather for a general meeting, introduce those professionals new to the Jesuit network to CDE, as well as contribute to the robust offering of programs offered through the Institute.

As a result of CDE’s work over the years, those engaged with the Conference have had the opportunity to develop and share best practices on the issues related to diversity and equity that are of the utmost concern to members of our campus communities. The Conference has also worked to provide scholarships to students from Jesuit colleges and universities. The Bill Davis Scholarship is awarded each year in honor of the late Bill Davis, director of Upward Bound at Loyola University Chicago from 1969 to 1990, and one of the founding members of the Conference. The Scholarship commemorates his commitment to education and motivating young students of color. The Scholarship is available to students from all 28 Jesuit colleges and universities. Information regarding the Bill Davis Scholarship is disseminated to students by each CDE campus representative.

2016 CDE Conference at Santa Clara University

The CDE annual meeting has proven to be a starting point of conversation for many of our campus leaders. Todd says, “I really connected with young professionals across the network [and] saw it as a place where my voice could be heard and [I could] gain valuable leadership experience within the Jesuit network.”

This summer, CDE will celebrate its 35th anniversary when representatives from across the Association gather for its annual meeting on the campus of Santa Clara University from June 19th through 22nd. This year’s conference theme, "Mission Matters: Moving from Strong Words to Courageous Actions,” evolved from conversations about the national dialogue that has been taking place on our campuses as a result of incidents at Ferguson, MO, Yale University and the University of Missouri – Columbia, among other places, over the past few years. Raymond Plaza, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Santa Clara says, “We are honored to serve as host of CDE 2016 and look forward to engaging our colleagues in this critical dialogue about the important diversity and social justice work that is taking place on our respective campuses.”

For more details on the annual meeting, including online submission forms for session proposals, please click here. Note: The deadline to submit a session proposal is March 1st. For additional information on CDE, please visit the AJCU website.