Conference Encourages Diversity

Dr. Jason G. Irizarry

by Holly J. Coley

Dr. Jason G. Irizarry

SUNY New Paltz will present “Partnering in Advancing Student Voice: New Possibilities for Engagement in Learning,” during its 16th annual Multicultural Education Conference on Friday, Nov. 12 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Union.The event will offer 15 workshops, a keynote speaker and cultural arts performances from Nex 2 B Read, the Multi Flava Club and the SUNY New Paltz Slam Poetry team, who are New York State Poetry Slam Champions and currently rank sixth in the nation.

The conference will focus on turning classrooms and schools into communities where students of all backgrounds feel valued and secure enough to engage in the learning experience.

The Multicultural Education Conference has made significant strides in improving the courses available to SUNY New Paltz students. Dr. Nancy Schniedewind, a professor in the Educational Studies department, has worked on the event each year. She knows how influential the conference has been in changing SUNY’s educational system.

“Originally there was no diversity requirement,” Schniedewind said.  “The conference began out of a common concern among teachers, SUNY folks and parents, about the need to address diversity in the curriculum, the policies and programs in schools.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Jason G. Irizarry, a professor of Multicultural Education at the University of Connecticut, will be offering a model for making school reform more effective. Based on three years of collaborative research with high school students, Irizarry believes students can provide valuable input in the development of better school reform if given the chance.

Irizarry thinks the conference will be a “wonderful opportunity” to speak with others who have common insights about the educational system.

Irizarry said he knew he wanted to become a teacher by the time he was 18. In college he worked as a custodian and when his job took him to the library, he would scan the stacks for books to read. One evening he discovered the title, “Affirming Diversity.” The book by Sonya Nieto, a leading scholar in multicultural education, was inspirational to the young Latino.

Growing up in New York City, Irizarry was familiar with what he now refers to as “the savage inequalities of public education.” By becoming a teacher he knew he could help.

Along with teaching, Irizarry works on youth participatory action research, and urban teacher recruitment, training and retention.

His two books, “The Latinization of U.S. Schools” and “Homegrown Teachers of Color,” are forthcoming.  This will be his first year attending the conference held at SUNY New Paltz.

Students who wish to attend the conference but have morning classes can still come to the event.

Olimpia Acunzo, assistant to Christine Waldo-Klinger, of the SUNY New Paltz office of Conference Services, said that students have the opportunity to attend the afternoon workshops as well.

General registration cost is $40 and the cost for students is $5.

For more information, contact Waldo-Klinger at 845-257-3033.