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SIU to celebrate Diversity Week with guest speakers, events and more beginning Aug. 28

women participating in event
Provided by Christi Mathis
Salukis enjoyed participating in the Deft Lunch project last year, and everyone is welcome to do so again on Aug. 31.

CARBONDALE, Ill. — “Celebrating Carbondale’s Diverse Communities” is the theme of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s 2023 Diversity Week Celebration, set for Aug. 28 through Sept. 1.

"We’re excited about this week of activities. This year, we’re really focusing on involving the community in our celebration, and our calendar reflects that,” said Renada Greer, executive director of the Student Multicultural Resource Center and Trio Programs. “We hope everyone will join us for this celebration to engage and celebrate Carbondale's diversity."

Through performances, guest speakers, panel and roundtable discussions, social activities and other events, SIU seeks to cultivate unity, foster inclusion and enhance knowledge, organizers say. Nearly all of the events are free and open to the public.

Kickoff to feature writer, LGTBQ+ advocate

Gabby Rivera, the first Latina to write for Marvel Comics, will be the guest speaker for the kickoff event from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Student Center Auditorium. Rivera is a queer, Bronx-born, Puerto Rican author. Her solo series “America” features the queer Latina, America Chavez. Rivera’s debut novel, “Juliet Takes a Breath,” earned rave reviews and was re-published by Penguin Random House. She is the writer and creator of b.b. free, an original comic series with BOOM! Studios and has a podcast, Joy Revolution. Rivera also advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and speaks across the country.

All are welcome to attend.

Celebrating women and their contributions

Among the highlights of the week is the second annual Women in Action Ceremony, set for 5 p.m. Aug. 29 in the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. The featured guest speaker is Deborah Barnett, the first executive director of SI Now, a 17-county Southern Illinois regional economic development initiative. A double alumna of SIU, Barnett will offer words of encouragement focusing on “the women we know” and the importance of recognizing the women who work every day to make their communities better.

Barnett earned doctoral and master’s degrees in workforce education and development from the university. She previously served as director of business incubator programs at SIU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development. Under her leadership, the incubator grew to capacity with a wait list for the first time in its 30-year history. She also has a decade of experience as a small-business owner and served in various workforce training, elementary education and ministry-related positions.

The presentation is sponsored by the Student Multicultural Resource Center in collaboration with Networking Empowering Women. The Women of Action awards will be presented to recognize “everyday heroes” who lead, inspire and serve at SIU and in the community as they work to overcome racism and advocate for equity and inclusion. A short reception will follow.

Honoring legacies

Carolin Harvey, a longtime Carbondale City Council member who became the city’s first Black mayor earlier this year will discuss her vision for the community at the Student Center’s Ballroom B at 5 p.m. Aug. 28. The event is part of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s Meet the Mayor series. Everyone is welcome, but registration is recommended. Then, students, faculty, staff and community members are welcome to enjoy lunch with the mayor from noon to 1 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Old Main Room of the Student Center. Preregister by calling 618-453-5627.

The late Harvey Welch Jr., an SIU alumnus and leader, will be honored for his service to SIU, his country and the region during a ceremony from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 31 at the John C. Guyon Auditorium at Morris Library. When Welch arrived at SIU in 1951 from Centralia, Illinois, he was the first Black player on the Saluki basketball team, and he was SIU’s first Black Air Force ROTC graduate. After a 20-year career in the Air Force, he returned to his alma mater for a second career as an SIU dean and vice chancellor for student affairs.

Other activities planned

The popular “Diversity is” project returns to campus this year from 2 to 4 p.m. on Aug. 31 in Faner Breezeway. From Deft Lunch, the project invites everyone to add their thoughts and insights in an effort to recognize, celebrate and promote the unlimited value of diversity around the world. Diverse designers of all races, genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations have designed the “diversity” letterforms, serving as a visual metaphor for the beauty of diversity. Rob Lopez, associate professor of program in the School of Art and Design, and Corey Tester, communication design associate instructor, will facilitate the event.

The Student Multicultural Resource Center and various SIU constituency groups will host a variety of other special events during Diversity Week, including a community resource fair, green zone training, lunch and learn, brown bag luncheon, alumni events and more. Find the complete schedule of events and more information about Diversity Week 2023 online.

The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is sponsoring the celebration with assistance from units and offices throughout campus.


Christi Mathis — student affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; business and analytics; education; health and human sciences; psychological and behavioral sciences; innovation and economic development; international education.

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