The 2020 University of Wisconsin-Platteville Midwest Culturally Inclusive Conference (MCIC) kicked off last Thursday and continued into Friday evening. The last MCIC conference hosted at UW-Platteville was in 2014.
The conference featured seven keynote speakers. The keynotes spoke in Ullsvik Hall, the main location, or “home base,” of the event. Between these keynote speakers, smaller presentations were broken up into collections of breakout sessions.
The breakout sessions featured a large number of speakers, all presenting at the same time, and conference attendees could choose whichever topic spoke to them the most. The breakout sessions took place in the meeting rooms of the Markee Pioneer Student Center and Nohr Gallery. Conference attendees were also provided with breakfast and lunch over the span of the two-day event.
The conference began with Lakota Harden, who spoke about cultivating connections, or roots, to the indigenous inhabitants of the land beneath your feet.
The next keynote speaker, Hmong artist and activist Tou Ger Xiong, presented on how to teach culture through laughter.
Dashka Slater, author of the campus read “The 57 Bus”, spoke on the book as it relates to the pursuit of justice.
Dr. Yusef Salaam, the last speaker on Thursday evening, presented on the reassuring promise that “You were born on purpose and with a purpose.” Salaam is one of five teenagers wrongly accused of murder in 1989 and now actively works to fight injustice.
Picking up on Friday morning, Sonya Renee Taylor talked about radical self-love for everybody and every body. Taylor founded The Body is Not an Apology, an international movement and organization committed to radical self-love and body empowerment.
Poet Yosimar Reyes followed with a presentation on undocujoy, the joy that is often left out of the undocumented narrative in America, and shifting the perspective in undocumented representation.
The conference closed with Lederick Horne, who presented on the topic of disability and paving a path to pride and success. As someone who grew up with a disability during a time when programs were new and underdeveloped, he has first-hand experience paving his own path to confidence in his abilities.
According to event coordinator Emily Stier, approximately 700 people registered for the conference, and approximately 450 people attended. Statistics released to the campus website under “Campus Climate Reflects on MCIC” show that 78 percent of the registered participants were college students from UW-Platteville and other campuses. Over 32 schools, businesses and organizations attended MCIC, and the conference website received 5,225 visits.
Conference attendees could use an app called Whova to help them navigate the conference. According to Stier, Whova was extremely helpful.
“Folks connected with each other and were able to send us questions. We used it to send announcements, and folks are still using it to outreach to us about the conference. We loved using the app,” Stier said.
Stier shared that presenters Harden, Reyes and Xiong have all given a lot of feedback about the event. She said that conference attendees found these speakers to be especially impactful and relatable.
Justin Wartzenluft, a UW-Platteville English alum and current financial grants specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of Crime Victim Services spoke on his experience at the conference and why he felt inspired to attend.
“I asked my work to pay for me to go to the conference because I think it will help me have a better perspective when I am doing my job,” Wartzenluft said.
His job did pay his way for the conference, and he didn’t have to take any time off.
“I really enjoyed the entire conference, but I took away the most from the keynote speakers. They brought an entertaining and diverse perspective to several hot topics,” Wartzenluft said.
The next MCIC will be March 3 and 4, 2021. Stier said that they are looking to make some changes regarding this next conference, including different registration options and rates, better infrastructure for same-day registration, inclusive meal options, expanded marketing platforms and the inclusion of FAQ’s on their website.