Upcoming DEIB Conference Seeks to Engage the Local Community

Wheaton College’s Network for LGBTQ+ Inclusion, Support, & Advocacy will be hosting its first ever educational conference, All Are Welcome: Collaborative Approaches to Building Inclusive Communities, on Saturday April 20th at 10:00 a.m. Joining Wheaton students, staff, and faculty will be a number of community organizations focused on furthering dialogues around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). Renowned social justice educator and playwright Tobias K Davis will be present to give the keynote address.

“The conference is an exciting extension of the work we’ve been doing to build connections between Wheaton and the local community around themes of empowering inclusive collaborations,” said Network co-convener and LGBTQ+ Engagement Coordinator Mike Pratt. “Putting students, staff, faculty, and community members in conversation with each other around these topics is likely to produce robust and fruitful conversations.”

The Network, which was incepted in 2018 by former Associate Vice President for Institutional Equity and Belonging Shaya Gregory Poku, has gone on to support various institutional commitments to LGBTQ+ students, including the creation of the Gender-Affirming Guide, the formation and implementation of the Student Name, Pronoun, & Gender Identity Policy, and an ongoing educational partnership with the Norton Public Schools.

Fellow Network co-convener and founding member, Lyndsey Aguilar, says that, “It is essential to create educational moments and relationships with the Wheaton community as well as community partners. The lives and experiences of students, faculty, and staff go beyond the Wheaton bubble, and our consistent partnerships with various resources off campus help build up support, create a sense of belonging, and move ideas towards becoming active systemic changes.”

During the conference, participants will be able to attend two of four possible break-out sessions, each of which delves into a different aspect of DEIB best practices, including:

  • Empowering Inclusive Collaborations and Initiatives
    Explore best practices around collaboratively working on inclusion-oriented projects from start to finish. This includes how to identify needs of the intended audience, build intersectional content, and evaluate the success of shared initiatives.
    Facilitated by Mike Pratt and Hartley Torrison ‘26.
  • Affirming Identity in the Workplace
    How do DEIB themes and best practices factor into everyday life in theworkplace? Participants will better understand how to appropriately affirm colleagues within professional spaces and productively challenge systems of power therein.
    Facilitated by Lyndsey Aguilar and Henley Ballou.
  • Auditing Existing Systems for Inclusion Gaps
    How well do our organizations’ day-to-day operations reflect our ideals for inclusion? Participants will be invited to consider the “small stuff” from client intake forms and communications with students and their families, to employee orientation, training materials and more. Where can small changes in language or policy have a big impact on the welcome message you convey? When you don’t have the power to make changes—for example, if there is outdated language on a state-mandated form—what other options can you explore? This will be a participatory workshop. Participants are welcome and encouraged to bring examples from their organization to discuss.
    Facilitated by Prof. Kate Mason and Prof. J Sterphone.
  • Action Planning Through Everyday Scenarios
    Looking to jump right into action? In this session, participants will apply theory to real-world scenarios and learn how to address and minimize harm within professional and academic spaces.
    Facilitated by Val Leon Quintero and Mairi Travis ’26.

“As a faculty member, this conference is an exciting opportunity to address inequality and inclusion in a way that is practical and hands-on, not just theoretical! By working with partners who know the challenges and needs of their specific institutions, we can look together for opportunities to enact actual, meaningful change,” said Professor Kate Mason, Network co-convener and Associate Professor of Sociology and Women and Gender Studies.

Those interested in attending the conference are welcome to register here.

Questions, comments, or concerns can be directed to the co-conveners of The Network: Lyndsey Aguilar, Professor Kate Mason, and Mike Pratt.