Tuesday, July 5, 2011

AAAA Summit Embraced the Future, Present and the Past in Atlantic City

The American Association for Affirmative Action's Access, Equity and Diversity Summit and Annual Meeting presented a three-fold perspective: future, past and present, in its meeting of EEO, affirmative action and diversity professionals in Atlantic City last week. The Summit, which borrowed its theme from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: "EEO and Diversity: A Strong and Prosperous Nation Secured Through and Fair and Inclusive Workforce," attracted participants from the State of New Jersey and from as far away as Maui, HI. This year, the summit was co-sponsored by the New Jersey Affirmative Action Officers' Council.

By inviting the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) Patricia A. Shiu and the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Jacqueline Berrien, the summit looked to the future of the civil rights enforcement activities of these key agencies. Also participating from the federal government was Veronica Villalobos, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with the Office of Personnel Management. As an additional effort to embrace the future as well as the present, AAAA used Skype to include a French professor in the dynamic discussion about Affirmative Action and Diversity. This is the first time that AAAA has included an international component using Skype.

In its twelve workshops, AAAA also addressed current issues affecting compliance with EEO and affirmative action laws and policies. The association also held two pre-conference workshops, one on faculty recruitment and retention and the other an "EEO Boot Camp" for individuals who are new to the profession.

The final panel on Equity in Education underscored the current challenges facing diverse communities and the importance of groups' mutual support and funding for equity programs. The panelists represented Holocaust education, integrating African American history and Italian culture into the K-12 curriculum. The panel also addressed the ongoing issue of bullying and the importance of teaching respect for differences in elementary and secondary schools.

Added to the substantive training opportunities was an African-American Art exhibit, highlighting the local community and its artists, and an awards luncheon featuring Ms. Flonzie Brown Wright, who spoke of the contributions of women to the civil rights movement and the Mississippi Freedom Rides. Looking back on the fifty-year history of the rides was an attempt to underscore the continuing importance of civil rights laws and to re-connect with the origins of these laws.

By all accounts this collaboration with one of AAAA's state partners was a tremendous success. Next year, AAAA will host its 38th Annual meeting in Washington, DC.

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