NORMAN — A symposium that began a quarter-century ago to address racial tensions on campus has grown into a comprehensive national forum on access to higher education.
“The conference continues to grow and get bigger as it deals with all the emerging issues,” said Belinda Biscoe, associate vice president for outreach at the University of Oklahoma.
Inclusion today is not only about “students of color,” Biscoe said, but also students who are undocumented, who speak a different language, who practice a different religion and who live with disabilities.
“Our challenge is to figure out how to give the very best education to all students,” she said.
This year, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 27-31 in Indianapolis. More than 2,500 administrators, faculty, students and others are expected to attend.
The conference began in 1988 in Oklahoma with about 200 participants.
Biscoe said 27 years ago James Pappas, OU vice president for outreach, realized there were a lot of racial tensions and racial issues on campus. In deciding how to handle that, OU officials found they weren't the only ones dealing with inclusion issues.
After the first conference, they began to expand their outreach.
Last year's conference drew representatives from 900 institutions of every kind, from Ivy League schools to small public colleges.
Oklahoma higher education today faces two big issues when it comes to access, Biscoe said.
The first is the lack of students in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — where many of tomorrow's jobs will be.
Educators need to attract traditionally underrepresented populations to these disciplines. That includes females, blacks and students with disabilities, Biscoe said.
“We need to nurture that interest at younger ages,” she said.
The second challenge is better partnership between common education and higher education so high school graduates can succeed in college.
“We need more emphasis on preparation in the public schools so when they get to college they are prepared to deal with the rigorous academic curriculum,” Biscoe said.
“We all benefit from that. If you do well, I do well, the whole society,” she said.
One group that often is forgotten is students in rural communities, who aren't given access to Advanced Placement classes, Biscoe said.
“The reality is we still have a long way to go. We still need to do more to bring our students together and help them deal with their differences,” she said. “Our diversity in this country is our strength and our challenge.”
If you go
The National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) is scheduled for May 27-31 in Indianapolis.
Soledad O'Brien, award-winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer, will be one of the four featured keynote speakers. Others are Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund; Marc Lamont Hill, host of the nationally syndicated television show “Our World with Black Enterprise” and associate professor of education at Teachers College at Columbia University; and Vandana Shiva, physicist, interdisciplinary researcher in science, technology and environmental policy and founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology.
Early registration is $625 through March 31. It covers all conference sessions and special events. Registration after March 31 is $725. Student registration is $425.
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