UNITED Confernce focuses on diverstiy through presentations and events at NMU

Shana Schmitt

UNITED 2011 Program FINAL

Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) will kick off its sixth annual academic conference next week at NMU.

UNITED is a program unique to NMU and focuses on fostering diversity through a variety of presentations that fall into one of the seven tracks of diversity the conference covers. The seven tracks are: diversity, film, music and dance, art, research, food and service.

The conference is made possible by the UNITED conference planning committee, chaired by Judith Puncochar, student volunteers and conference coordinators.

“The purpose of UNITED is to offer faculty, students, staff and U.P. community members an academic conference to present interesting films, art, research, music, service, dance, and food and affirm diversity broadly defined as an important value at NMU,” Puncochar said.

“As the conference is of academic nature, students that attend sessions can add attendance to their resume, which implies commitment to furthering ones professional development,” Puncochar said. “The conference also educates students to be more global citizens.”

Some featured events this year included performances by the Flat Broke Blues Band, hoop dancer Brianna Malinowski, and FLOW Theater. For those interested in cooking, chef Michelle Bommarito will be offering a presentation on eating well. If films are your interest, the premier showing of “Globalized Soul” in Michigan will also take place. Former white supremacist Tom “TJ” Layden will speak about his experiences.

“The purpose is to get students to learn more about the value of diversity and to enrich one’s knowledge and understanding and to affirm human dignity,” Puncochar said.

Proposals for presentations are reviewed around February of the previous semester. Students and student organizations are encouraged to present.

“Any student or student group can present at UNITED; it gives students a presentation at an academic conference which is great for a resume,” Puncochar said.

Faculty and community members are also encouraged to participate, and there will be presentations by NMU professors this year.

One presentation unique to this year’s UNITED conference is “Zamposium!” Professer Alec Lindsay and fourteen of his “Zambassadors” will present their research projects on their biological, ecological and cultural understanding of the country from their trip.

Puncochar encourages professors to bring students to UNITED during class time if there is a relevant presentation. Everyone that attends receives a program. When they go to a presentation, they sign in and receive a sticker to place on your program proving that they actually attended the event. Students are encouraged to keep these programs for future professional development.

The UNITED conference provides a unique experience of diversity each year and something new and different should always be expected. Students are encouraged to attend sessions to explore something new.

Last year, 2,600 people attended UNITED, and Puncochar anticipates another record breaking year.

No pre-registration is required and all events are free and open to students and the public.