The first Critical Conversations About Diversity and Justice series began in September 2012 and ran through April 2013. We're excited to offer this series for a fourth year, starting in October 2016 and running through April 2017. As with last year, all 2016-2017 sessions will be livestreamed and video recorded, so past sessions can be accessed at any time.

Every conversation in the series takes place on a Friday, from 1:30 – 3 p.m. in the Givens Conference Room (120 Elmer Andersen Library, on the U’s West Bank Campus).

The Critical Conversations series is sponsored by the University of Minnesota's Office for Equity and Diversity and co-sponsored by the University Libraries. These conversations are open to all students, staff, faculty and community members, and do not require an RSVP.


Add the OED Critical Conversations calendar to your Google Calendar. (NOTE: You must be logged in to your UMN Google Account for these calendar options to function properly.)

2016-2017 Critical Conversations

Latinx Voice; Latinx Vote: How Demographics are Shifting the American Political Landscape

Friday, September 30, 2016 (Live streaming video here)

Using US Census Bureau definitions and data, Hispanics or Latinxs, represented “over half” the total increase in U.S. population between 2000 and 2010, and the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that by 2050, Hispanics will constitute 29% of the U.S. population. Mexicans comprised nearly 75% of Hispanic increases, and more than half of the U.S. Hispanic population resided in three states: California, Texas, and Florida. These demographics reveal the potential power that both immigrants and native-born community members can wield in the political process. Issues such as immigration reform and paths to citizenship; affordable education; supportive services for families; criminal justice reform, and addressing economic inequality have risen to the forefront as important issues in the 2016 presidential campaign. Yet, within this group are people of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Central and South American heritage, and while they share connections through iterations of the Spanish language, there are notable differences regarding class, cultural practices, beliefs, and values. This conversation brings together a diverse group of panelists to explore: intersections of ethnicity, race, class, gender, and religion; how these factors affect Hispanic communities; and the role they could play in American politics.

Panelists: Carlos Mariani, Minnesota State Representative, District 65B, DFL Lead, Education Innovation, and Member, Education Finance, and Agricultural Policy Committees; Patricia Torres Ray, First Hispanic female elected to the Minnesota State Senate, representing District 63, and Chair, State and Local Government Committee; Fernando Rodriguez, Teaching Specialist, Chicano Studies, and Doctoral Candidate, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota; Minerva Muñoz, Director, TRIO Programs, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. Moderator: Fernando Burga, Assistant Professor, Masters in Urban and Regional Planning Program, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

Download and share the Sept 30 flyer here

Queer Indigenous and People of Color: Changing the Face and Focus of the LGBTQ Movement

Friday, October 21, 2016 (Live streaming video here)

In the wake of creating societal change, social justice movements also experience change from within. Historically in the United States, LGBTQ Indigenous and People of color activists, organizers, and change makers have been marginalized and tokenized by white voices within the LGBTQIA Community. As QIPOC and many allies work to change that narrative, we see a shift toward building a more intersectional movement. In 2011, the Pfund Foundation hosted the “Bold Gathering,” which brought LGBT POC people together to “build political power and change the course of the LGBT movement," (Ari Gutiérrez, co-founder of LA-based Honor PAC and Latino Equality Alliance). More recently, the April 2015 Upper Midwest “Creating Space” Queer Indigenous and People of Color Conference drew over 300 participants for the sake of advancing an agenda focused on the intersections of race, economic equity, and gender identity. Now, this October conversation brings together a stellar group of QIPOC voices representing the strength of activism, the intelligence of social commentary, and strategic elements of fundraising, policy, and organizing. These new leaders are challenging the LGBTQ Movement to replace what has been a “Just-us” (white) agenda with a new Justice agenda.

Panelists: Lupe Castillo, Community Development Consultant, Strengthening Indigenous Development; Adja Gildersleve, videographer, educator, and Co-founder, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis; Alfred Walking Bull, Communications Manager, PFund Foundation; Xay Yang, Shades of Yellow Leadership Team Member & Co-founder, Upper Midwest QIPOC Regional Conference. Moderator: Jason Jackson, Assistant Director, Gender and Sexuality Center for Queer and Trans Life, University of Minnesota.

Police, Prisons, and Legal Power: Reforming our U.S. System of Justice

Friday, November 18, 2016 (Live streaming video here)

According to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “nationally, 1.4 million black men have lost the right to vote” due to felony conviction laws in various states, and today, “current housing for approximately 2 million Americans—two thirds of them African American or Hispanic—is a prison or jail cell.” Does the United States have two justice systems – one for people who are white and have resources – and one for people of color and the poor? Equal justice before the law, enshrined in the US Constitution, has been a pillar of our democratic system, but recent events and actions threaten to make this a mockery, mere printed words, rather than an equitable and well-functioning process. From charges of profiling and unfair treatment by police, to racially-influenced decisions by prosecutors and the courts, to the construction of a prison system that is increasingly privatized and profit-based, critics describe a justice system that itself should be ‘held in contempt’ and is in need of major reforms. Gain insights from a discussion with panelists from higher education, law enforcement, community engagement, and the legal system, that may lead to useful changes in our justice system.

Panelists: Keith Mayes, University of Minnesota Associate Professor, African American and African Studies; Mary Moriarty, Chief Public Defender, Hennepin County;  Justin Terrell, Program Manager, Justice 4 All, Take Action Minnesota. Paul P. Schnell, Chief of Police, City of Maplewood, Minnesota. Moderator: Kimberly Hewitt, Director, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Office for Equity & Diversity.

Out of the Studio and into the Streets: Using Design Thinking to Advance Equity and Sustainability

Friday, January 27, 2017 (Live streaming video here)

The emerging field of ‘Design Thinking’ brings design concepts out of the exclusive world of architecture, fashion, graphics, and product/service design, into broader society. Focused on deep listening, user experience and engagement, holistic thinking, creativity, collaboration, and experimentation, this process is now being applied in many areas including: business, education, and health care. It is also being used to address economic inequity, ecological and economic sustainability, and issues relating to cultural, political, and environmental changes. Design thinking has the potential to tap and include creative ideas of the many rather than the few, in a design decision-making process that can help create a common future. How does design thinking engage affected community members in the entire design process (empathy; problem definition; ideation; prototyping, testing)? Join us as we discuss these questions and more with professionals from architecture and urban planning, education, health care, community activism, and the arts.

Panelists: Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Director, Family and Partnerships, Minneapolis Public Schools; DeAnna Dodds Cummings, Chief Executive Officer, Juxtaposition Arts; Thomas Fisher, Director, Minnesota Design Center, University of Minnesota College of Design; Teddie Potter, PhD, RN, FAAN Clinical Associate Professor, Director of Inclusivity and Diversity, University of Minnesota School of Nursing. Moderator: Virajita Singh, Assistant Vice Provost, Office for Equity and Diversity, University of Minnesota.

Nurturing Justice: Raising Inclusive Children in an Unjust World

Friday, February 24, 2017 (Live streaming video here)

Through the media and in daily life, we often hear the phrase, “We live in a complex world.” In the U.S. and globally, we are experiencing rapid social, economic, and political changes that are affecting public and personal opinion and behavior. The rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle mean adults – and children alike – are awash in images, language, and “infotainment” that reinforce social inequities around race, disability, gender, sexuality, class, and religion, among other social identities permeating U.S. society. In this complex climate, many of us hope we can challenge these inequities by nurturing and raising children with self respect, compassion for others, and a genuine comfort with diversity – children who will take these values into their adult role as engaged citizens. But how can the education in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and faith communities compete with YouTube, Instagram, and the next cool app? Join this discussion with parents, educators, and others working with children and youth as they share personal experiences with challenging bias and creating open and equitable child-focused spaces.

Panelists: Reverend KP Hong, Director of Religious Education, Unity Church – Unitarian, St. Paul; JB Mayo, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development; Katie Peacock, Assistant Director for Community Partnerships and Engaged Learning, University of Minnesota Center for Community-Engaged Learning, Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost; Lisa Sass Zaragoza, Outreach Coordinator, PRAXIS Institute, Department of Pharmaceutical Care and Health Systems, University of Minnesota School of Public Health. Moderator: Anne Phibbs, Director of Education, University of Minnesota Office of the Vice President for Equity and Diversity.

Unmasking ‘Choice’: Moving from Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Justice

Friday, March 31, 2017 (Live streaming video here)

The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized the concept of ‘choice’ regarding abortion and other reproductive rights for women. However, many women of color find ‘choice’ to be problematic, charging that it actually ‘masks’ the discriminatory ways that public leaders and the legal system treat various women differently according to race, religion, economic status, and disability, among others. These diverse women are raising their voices and moving the discourse away from the pro-and anti-choice stalemate and toward the intersectional concept of reproductive ‘justice’ which Forward Together (formerly Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice) defines as the point “when all people have the economic, social and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities.” Join a conversation that offers an intersectional and human rights lens regarding important aspects of the ongoing struggle for reproductive freedom.

Panelists: Jackie Trelawny, Director of Community Engagement, Family Tree Clinic; Karen Law, Executive Director, Pro-Choice Resources; Patina Park, Executive Director, MN Indian Women's Resource Center; Ellen Samuelson Young, Consultant at Ellen Samuelson Young and former Director of Government Relations, Minnesota, North & South Dakota Planned Parenthood.

Pride not Pity: Disability as Culture

Friday, April 21, 2017 (Live streaming video here)

The umbrella term ‘disability community’ represents a diverse group encompassing a wide range of characteristics, experiences, and perspectives. While some maintain that the concept of ‘disability culture’ strengthens the struggle for disability rights through shared planning and strategizing, others are concerned that solidarity as a larger group may renew historic patterns of discrimination and marginalization. Achieving inclusion is an ongoing struggle, and some argue that ‘disability culture’ is important in celebrating the ‘uniqueness’ of disability, building intersectional alliances across disabilities, race, gender, sexuality, and class, among other social identities, and advancing an agenda for rights and recognition. Scholar and activist Carol Gill writes, “As disabled people recognize and appreciate their shared social experience, this growing group identity forms the foundation of a counter-culture disability pride movement analogous historically to the cultural efforts of other minority groups in their search for unity and positive identity.” Engage in a conversation with diverse panelists from the disability community to gain greater understanding of the implications of disability culture within disabled communities and for American culture at large.

Panelists: Angela Carter, Ph.D. Candidate/Graduate Instructor, Department of Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts; Co-Founder, Critical Disability Studies Collaborative; and member, Society for Disability Studies Queer Caucus Steering Committee; Jacob Colon, University of Minnesota graduate in Child Psychology; former Advisor, Disability Student Cultural Center, and former member, Disability Resources Student Advisory Committee; Wendy Harbour, Director, National College Center for Students with Disabilities, AHEAD; Amy Hewitt, Research Manager, Adult Services, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development. Moderator: Tammy Berberi, Associate Professor, French, University of Minnesota Morris, and former President of the Society for Disability Studies.

Location and Time

All conversations are on Fridays, from 1:30 – 3 p.m. in the Givens Conference Room (120 Elmer Andersen Library, on the U’s West Bank Campus).


To request a disability-related accommodation, please contact Ralph Blanco at or 612-625-8680. Please allow two weeks advance notice.




2012-2013 Critical Conversations