Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week comes to USC next week

The theme for the fourth annual week-long event is Climate Change 20/20.

Climate change will be at the forefront of this year’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Week at USC. The climate, however, refers to the atmosphere surrounding inclusion on the university's campus instead of the environment.

USC’s fourth annual weeklong DEI event will host workshops on both of the university’s campuses from March 2-6.

This theme comes in the middle of USC’s Culture Journey Initiative, a university-wide initiative that began with the Values Poll in Oct. 2019. It allowed current USC faculty, staff and students to share the values they want to see at USC.

This year the responses from the Values Poll kicked off conversations all around campus in town halls and discussion sessions about how to implement these desired values.

“When we talk about climate change as the theme of the conference, we talk about how USC needs to grow,” said Camille Rich, co-founder of DEI Week at the university. “This conference drills down how we will achieve these changes.”

Rich explained that the climate change metaphor feels especially appropriate because in both campus climate and climate change, daily individual actions can impact the larger atmosphere.

Events throughout the week will range from lectures and group discussions to training courses and research presentations.

Both Renée Smith-Maddox, the other founder, and Rich are looking forward to the opening keynote speech on Monday where Tanya Odom, a globally renowned expert on diversity and inclusion who has worked in over 30 countries, will speak.

Undergraduate Student Government President Trenton Stone said the university has made strides over the past few decades in increasing diversity through the admissions process. However, Stone’s goal is to help the students from vastly different cultural, financial and geographical backgrounds succeed and be comfortable once they are accepted into USC.

“How do we make sure they have adequate resources on campus and feel equitably supported throughout their entire experience while at USC?” said Stone. “That is what most of my focus is on.”

USG Chief Diversity Officer Jeffery Cho believes events such as these are a great first step in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, but still thinks more can be done.

“Doing this type of programming is one way to go about it,” said Cho, “but of course it would be great to see USC administrators actually implement certain policy changes that really support the ideology that goes behind all the presentations that are going to be conducted throughout the next week.”

Rich said self-examination of the current climate at USC and acknowledgement of the shared community is key.

“Often, when students enroll in a university they are told that one of the benefits is that they are part of a diverse community, but unless you know how to appreciate that diversity you can’t really make use of all of it,” said Rich.

The week kicks off Monday morning at 9 a.m. with a lecture and workshop titled “Diversity is a Number, Inclusion is a Feeling” at Taper Hall.