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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

UNITED conference tackles diversity issues

NMU will host its seventh annual Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) conference from Monday, Sept. 24 through Thursday, Sept. 27.

The conference allows students to listen to speakers who address topics from diversity and gender hardships to specific life experiences of the speaker.

The key speakers will present on unity in film, diversity, food, music, art, dance, theatre, service and research.

Judy Puncochar, director of the UNITED conference, is looking forward to students coming out and listening to the variety of speakers throughout the week.

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“At Northern, we do more than simply talk about diversity, we do diversity. We take action and place diversity as a key value on our campus,” Puncochar said. “Each year, UNITED has upwards of 2,600 people who attend this exciting conference, and this year we expect more than 3,000 attendees.”

The first presentation of the conference will feature NMU Board of Trustees member and NMU alumnus Rick Popp. Popp, who is also an executive at Ford Company Human Resources, will speak about working in a diverse global workforce. The presentation will be at 10 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 24 in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center.

This year Ramsey Jay Jr., a motivational speaker, is returning to speak to students, faculty and the community. Back by popular demand, Ramsey’s presentation will encourage people to jump start their goals which will lead them to success, Puncochar said.

The goal of the UNITED conference is to define diversity broadly and explore the multiplicity of perspectives on any given topic, Puncochar said.

“The conference brings people together to entertain new ideas and make connections between topics and people not otherwise possible,” Puncochar said.

In addition to keynote speakers, the conference will also feature performances. Amy Orf, an instructor in the NMU modern languages department, will perform songs from different Spanish speaking countries.

Puncochar works with student volunteers who help put the conference together. Andrew Piasecki, a junior marketing major who works with the student leader fellowship program, has been working on the conference all summer, calling speakers and figuring out where the conference would take place.

“I chose to help with the UNITED conference as part of my community service internship through the student leader fellowship program here at Northern,” Piasecki said.

Piasecki feels UNITED will be successful because there is such a wide variety of speakers which gives students an opportunity to connect to at least one.

“Students should come to the conference because it will increase their knowledge of the world and other cultures that they may not be familiar with,” Piasecki said.

Students who have attended the UNITED conference in the past often say the speakers help educate and motivate the audience.

“Last year I heard a speaker speak on LGBT rights and the public school system,” said senior social work major Emma Nelson. “I learned a lot more than I thought I would about certain policies there still are within the school system.”

Another inspirational speaker scheduled to headline at the conference is paralympic skier Chris Waddell, who has won 12 medals over four Olympic games and attempted to become the first unassisted paraplegic to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. Wadell will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 26 in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center.

The conference is free and open to the public. Unless noted otherwise, all speakers will be in the Great Lakes Rooms of the University Center.

For more information, email Judy Puncochar at [email protected].

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