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Skidmore College

IGR conference to draw national audience

June 4, 2015

Approximately 150 people from 28 colleges and universities across the U.S. will attend the inaugural Northeastern Intergroup Relations (IGR) Conference at Skidmore this Sunday through Wednesday, June 7-10. The event will bring together individuals who have developed (or have an interest in developing) intergroup dialogue programs, courses, and co-curricular events on their own campuses or in their communities. 

Intergroup Relations originated at the University of Michigan in 1988 as a means of addressing racial tension. Its primary goal was to support student learning around inter- and intra-group relations, conflict, and social justice across a range of social identities, including race, gender, sexuality, social class, religion, and nationality. Since then it has expanded to a number of colleges and universities across the United States. The Skidmore conference will offer participants the opportunity to hear from leading scholars in the field as well as the chance to network with others involved in the field through breakout session, panel discussions, and special events.

Conference keynote speakers include Sylvia Hurtado, currently director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA and former president of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. Hurtado is known for her research on campus climate as it affects different racial/ethnic groups. She is co-author of Enacting Diverse Learning Environments, Intergroup Dialogue, and Defending Diversity.

The second conference keynoter is Joe Feagin, the Ella McFadden Professor in Sociology at Texas A&M University and a former president of the American Sociological Association. Well-known for his work in the areas of racial and ethnic relations, racism theory and gender, Feagin is the author or co-author of over 200 research articles and monographs and nearly 70 books, including Racist America, The White Racial Frame, Liberation Sociology, and The Agony of Education of Education: Black Students at White College and Universities.

In addition there will be breakout sessions, an author panel featuring Kelly Maxwell and Ximena Zúniga, and the chance to attend such campus events as the Skidmore Storytellers Institute.

IGR has been a growing topic of interest in campuses for a number of years. Skidmore offered a pilot course in the discipline in 2008 and in 2012 became a model in the field of studying race, racism, and racial identity when it launched the first IGR minor in the country. Approximately 3,200 students, faculty, and staff at Skidmore have been involved in IGR programming (courses, co-curricular events, and faculty-staff workshops) since 2008.

Kristie Ford, director, and Jennifer Mueller, assistant director of Skidmore’s IGR program, said the idea for the conference came several years ago from colleague, Lei Bryant, “as Skidmore IGR team members contemplated next steps for our growing program. Framed initially as a small regional conference, we were pleased to learn that there was national interest in this initiative, which suggests a growing need for collaboration among people committed to social justice within institutions of higher education and beyond.”

In the conference program, Ford and Mueller write, “Surely we are keenly aware that the struggle for social justice is far from over. Indeed, the oppressive dimensions of the broader world we live in all too frequently find expression through the institutions and communities within which we live and work. And yet, those of us here share a common commitment to address injustices where we find them, and develop the potential of other individuals committed to doing the same.”

Ford and Mueller concluded, “During this three-day conference, we look forward to challenging conversations, sharing best practices, and learning from emerging research in the field with colleagues from across the U.S.”

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