Welcome to the 2022 UW–Madison Diversity Forum — The Power of Remembering: Reclaiming Our Legacies to Imagine New Futures

Aerial view of the UW–Madison campus and Madison isthmus with a red banner at the bottom and bold letters reading Diversity Forum 2022.

Greetings to all our conference attendees,

It is my honor to welcome you to the 2022 UW–Madison Diversity Forum, hosted by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA). This year’s Diversity Forum, The Power of Remembering: Reclaiming Our Legacies to Imagine New Futures, calls for us to take a deeper look into the histories that have shaped UW and ourselves. I trust that you have come ready to learn and engage with others and that you will leave the Forum energized to help create, promote and sustain equitable and inclusive working and learning environments characterized by a genuine sense of belonging.

Portrait of LaVar J. Charleston
Dr. LaVar J. Charleston

Last year, I began my tenure as UW–Madison’s chief diversity officer. During my initial listening tour, I engaged with more than 3,500 university constituents, gathering the data that informs DDEEA’s four strategic priorities for the next two years (FY23 and FY24), which you can find in our fall Campus Climate Progress Report (PDF). These priorities will lead us into the next iteration of UW’s strategic diversity planning, which is set to begin in 2024. With Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin now at the helm, I am excited to reflect on our progress with her and strategize the best path forward.

As an organization, UW–Madison has been on an equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging learning journey. This year’s Forum will feature several opportunities to explore who we have been and who we want to become. It is my hope that you will have an opportunity to visit the Public History Project exhibit, “Sifting and Reckoning: UW–Madison’s History of Exclusion and Resistance.” This exhibit will be available both in person and virtually and gives voice to those who were silenced in the past, empowering us to confront the future with a more complete and honest understanding of where we come from as an institution.

I am so grateful to be together with you all here at Diversity Forum 2022. Over these two days, I encourage you to take advantage of as many learning opportunities as possible, ranging from a discussion of our Campus Climate Survey data to informative and inspiring sessions with our keynote speaker, Professor Tiya Miles, and our day two special presenters, professors Decoteau Irby, Jamila Lyiscott and Chezare Warren. It is my hope that you will use the Forum to learn in community with one another, build collaborations and leave with innovative strategies to make your living, learning and working communities all that we know they can be. I dare you to think about familiar concepts in new ways that add value to the whole. And when the Forum concludes, continue the learning with our Go Big Read book, “How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America,” by Clint Smith. It is an examination of the stories hidden in plain view and a reflection on how encountering the past can serve to create a new vision for the future.

As we learn together, let us use this knowledge to inform our belonging efforts and make certain that equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging principles are interwoven into the fabric of our policies, practices, programs and curriculum. I truly believe in the power of change and all the possibilities that go along with it. This work is difficult, but not impossible. An impossibility is only a possibility that you do not yet understand.

LaVar J. Charleston, Ph.D.
Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Inclusion
Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer
Elzie Higginbottom Director
Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement
University of Wisconsin–Madison