Inclusive Excellence Symposium - 2018


Eri Bentley, Chair of Aggies Think Care Act

Opening Address

President Noelle Cockett

Keynote Speakers

Darren Parry

Understanding Our Differences and Loving Each Other Anyway

Angela Morrison

Five Myths about Immigration (and Why They Matter)


Immigration policy is hotly debated. But immigration policy is not an abstract debate topic to the families and communities that the U.S. immigration system impacts.

This talk corrects five common myths about immigration. From incorrect assumptions about how the U.S immigration system operates to widely held but incorrect beliefs about immigrants, common myths about immigration are destructive to productive public discourse about immigration policy. More significantly, they result in the inequitable and unjust treatment of immigrants.

The talk concludes with a challenge to avoid further perpetuating myths about immigration. It asks audience members to educate others, build understanding, and engage respectfully in dialogue about U.S immigration policy.

Breakout Session 1

QPR: Training and Building Personal Resiliency

Dr. Justin Barker and Dr. Kimberly Meyers


QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer: three simple steps anyone can learn to potentially help save a life from suicide. Additionally, participants learned about the concept of resilience and how they can build resiliency in themselves and others.

Let's Talk About the Academic Needs of Students of Color – A conversation of inclusive excellence through a critical lens from student voices.

Isael Torres and Zitlalli Herrera


As students navigate concepts and spaces of power, what support can we offer to our minoritized students that often are not considered and largely underrepresented? Specifically from a first-generation/student of Color perspective, we critically analyzed how institutions can discontinue failing to meet student's social and academic needs.

Accessibility Learning Materials Benefit All Students

Christopher Phillips


Creating online materials that are accessible for students with disabilities is a legal requirement. However, there are also significant benefits to all students that come from creating inclusive content. We discussed the responsibilities and opportunities to both students and instructions that come from creating content usable by everyone.


Macy Keith


Learn the basics of LGBTQA+ identities and their unique struggles in this safe-space seminar. We defined sex-assigned-at-birth, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation followed by an experiential activity and discussion. This seminar is open to all. Come with questions, leave better equipped to help the LGBTQA+ community.

Breakout Session 2

Interfaith Ally Training on Campus: A Tool for Inclusive Excellence

Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin


This stand-alone program was developed and has been used to build capacity for appreciating and engaging with religious difference on campus since 2015. After providing a brief overview, participants are able to experience a "speed-faithing" activity, which is a key part of the training program.

Considerations of a Strength Based Approach for Fostering a Latino-Friendly Climate on Campus

Dr. Celina G. Willie and Dr. María Luisa Spicer-Escalante


Moving away from past stereotypes, this presentation examines the value of a psycho-socio-cultural approach to understanding and supporting first-generation Latina/o students to graduation. Discussion focuses on how Latino students’ increased psychological, social and cultural well-being can translate into increased persistence. Strength-based practices to implement on campus are illustrated.

Building Bridges through Mentorship: How to Connect with Students of Diverse Backgrounds

Dr. Kathryn Weglarz, Dr. Emily Sadler-Pitts, Curtis Frazier, Dr. Alan Savitzky, and Elizabeth Ogata


Engagement is essential to student success, particularly those who are underrepresented in academia. Here we present lessons we learned from successfully connecting with Native American students during the formation of the Native American Summer Mentorship Program and translate them so others can apply these lessons in their practice.

Using Motivational Interviewing to Collaborate for Change

Dr. David E. Christian and Sharla Hart


ATCA's mission promotes collaboration between people of diverse identities and values. Participants in this workshop are introduced to Motivational Interviewing (MI), a powerful set of research based communication and collaboration skills. Participants learn and practice MI in pairs, on a diversity-related topic of their interest.

Connecting Communities of Color: A Historical Exploration of Art, Activism, Law and Popular Culture

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola


In this program, Dr. Martinez-Cola takes you on journey as she reveals the numerous ways communities of color have been connected throughout history. She introduces the audience to the oft-unknown connections and similarities in the areas of activism, law, the arts, and popular culture.

Breakout Session 3

Aggies Elevated: Neurodiversity Meets Opportunity at Utah State University

Dr. Jeff Sheen and Sue Reeves


Young adults with intellectual disabilities are an underrepresented, yet increasingly important part of diversity in traditional four-year college campuses. A panel of Aggies Elevated students discuss their experiences at USU, and their impact of a college experience on a future employment opportunities and quality of life.

Promoting Inclusion and Understanding in the Multicultural Classroom

Dr. Ekaterina Arshavskaya, Marta Halaczkiewicz, and Dr. Jim Rogers


Participants will be introduced to a model of intercultural competence understanding and then use the concepts to analyze critical incidents which highlight various misunderstandings. Using the incidents, participants identify the source of the misunderstanding, brainstorm solutions, and discuss applications to their own classrooms.

Transformation of (Mis)Perception

Dr. Mehmet Soyer (presenter)

Panelists: Simone Regan, Kylen Kaminski, Gonca F. Soyer, and Tasha Bauck


This panel will focus on identifying and addressing sexism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia against Muslim Women and other forms of oppression in everyday interactions. Participants learn how to consider context (e.g., relationship, setting, external factors such as stress) in order to challenge such comments with greater confidence and efficacy.

Working with Veteran and Service Member Students

Tony Flores


The intent of the workshop is to give participants tools to assist veterans and service members pursuing their education. We will examine military language, life, and experience to develop a cultural understanding of veteran and service members.

Breakout Session 4

Hands-on Methodologies to Create an LGBT+ Inclusive Environment in USU

Rachel Hager and Macy Keith


Improving the campus climate for LGBTQA+ students is an essential step to create a more inclusive institution at USU. Through a hands-on approach, participants in this session leave with an extensive toolbox of methodologies to create an LGBTQA+ inclusive environment at USU.

The Interconnectedness of Disability Models, Biases, and Inclusion for Individuals with Disabilities

Kayla Currier Kipping, Sue Reeves, and Dr. Trenton Landon


We are all impacted by the attitudes of those around us. The aim of this presentation is to describe the constructs of implicit and explicit bias and their relation to disability. Specifically the presenters discuss the influence of implicit and explicit biases on the college experiences of students with disabilities.

Cultural Adaptation Theory as a Pathway to Enhancing a Culture of Inclusion

Dennis Kohler


Cultural adaptation is the process of integration within a new culture. This sessiom addresses both the challenges and success strategies of cultural sojourners, and also discuss how adaptation is integral to the human experience. We discussed how to promote empathy and understanding to support inclusion efforts.

Not My Place to Speak: Encouraging Risk in Classroom Discussions

Dr. Christopher González


How do you talk about controversial or difficult topics in your classroom? How do you handle topics that concern marginalization on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, religion, and disability in a classroom that may not identify with such marginalized groups? This workshop identifies obstacles and propose strategies for creating a classroom environment conducive to grappling with challenging material.

Strategies for Speaking out against Everyday Prejudice

Dr. Mollie Murphy and Dr. Mehmet Soyer


This program focuses on identifying and addressing sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression in everyday interactions. Participant learn how to consider context (e.g., relationship, setting, external factors such as stress) in order to challenge such comments with greater confidence and efficacy.


A Qualitative Investigation of How Student Parents Cope with Multiple Roles

Kristen Hall and Audrey Juhasz


Student-parents are an invisible group coping with additional burdens on their time, finances, and emotions. Qualitative interviews with student-parents attending USU illuminate challenges faced, motivation, and coping strategies. Recommendations for being sensitive to this population's needs are presented.

Leaveraging Mobile Games for Civic Engagement

Julia Lamarra, Apoorva Chauhan, and Dr. Breanne K. Litts


This research poster reflects the findings of four ARIS (an open source platform to create location-based games) workshops conducted with 33 kids (ages 9-16) during Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, and Spring 2018. We specifically look at youth perceptions of civic issues after their interaction with ARIS.

Culturally Responsive Making: Lessons Learned from Designing with Indigenous Communities

Dr. Breanne K. Litts and Dr. Kristin A. Searle


We shared about our process co-designing with Indigenous communities to develop culturally responsive making and makerspaces with Indigenous communities in Arizona and Utah. We partner with these communities to design maker activities utilizing technologies that complement existing cultural practices where the communities are located. Project funded by NSF.

Being Secular: Challenges & Community

Muriel McGregor and Chase Gabbitas


Organized religions often play a critical role in providing students with friends, guidance, and support. However, an increasing number of students identify as religiously unaffiliated and/or non-religious. These students often struggle to find communities and support when entering a new community, and often find themselves rejected by roommates and/or family.

Increasing the Level of Diversity and Inclusion of the USU AIAA Chapter

Joel Mork


A major problem in aerospace is a lack of diversity. As the future leaders of the aerospace industry, the USU AIAA chapter seeks to increase its level of diversity thereby increasing the aerospace industry’s level of diversity. An outline of USU AIAA’s vision and plan for diversification is given.

Group Play Therapy for Siblings of Children with Disabilities

Dr. Megan Oka, Jennifer Walker, Ashley Tuft, Travis Spencer, and Macy Winegar


This poster is based on a group play therapy for children with siblings with disabilities that began at USU in 2015. We discuss the purpose, structure, and outcomes of the group. Participant learn how we provide weekly sessions addressing the needs of these often-forgotten children and parents.

Presenter Bios

Dr. Ekaterina Arshavskaya

Dr. Ekaterina Arshavskaya is an assistant professor of English for academic purposes in the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communications Studies. Her research and teaching interests include culture in second language teaching, intercultural competence development, and teacher learning. She has published in TESOL Journal, System, and Teaching Education.

Dr. Justin Barker

Dr. Justin Barker is a licensed clinical psychologist at USU's Counseling and Psychological Services. In that role, he serves as the USU CAPS regional campus director and assessment coordinator. In his spare time, he enjoys teaching, playing basketball, and spending time with his partner and their three children. Tasha Bauck is an openly gay woman living in Logan, Utah. She plans to get a degree in sociology and social work, so she can work with LGBTQ youth. She loves to be outdoors, and spending time with her family and partner.

Dr. David Christian

Dr. David Christian received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology from USU and taught at the University of Idaho for six years. He has been in private practice in Logan, Utah, since 1998. Dr. Christian has conducted Motivational Interviewing trainings for 25 years with activists, lobbyists, physicians, psychologists, counselors, and other professionals.

Tony Flores

Tony Flores is the director of the USU Veterans Resource office. Along with his work here at USU as the president of the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators and member of the Utah Department of Veterans and Military Affairs Education and Employment Work Group, he has had the opportunity to work with leaders in the Military Affiliated Education field. Along with his favorite seasons – fall and spring, are his favorite sports – football and baseball.

Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin

Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin is an anthropology professor and an affiliate professor of religious studies at Utah State University. She directs the USU Interfaith Initiative, which seeks to bridge religious difference on campus and in the community by nurturing a campus-wide vision of interfaith cooperation. Through curricular and extra-curricular programming, she helps all members of our campus community learn the skills, vision, and knowledge to connect with others in a spirit of authentic sharing, appreciation, respect, and inclusion. She also directs the new 18-credit Interfaith Leadership Certificate Program which is open to all undergraduates seeking to learn and apply these tools to successfully navigate a religiously diverse world.

Dr. Christopher González

Dr. Christopher González is an associate professor of English and the director of the new Latinx Cultural Center at Utah State University. His research and teaching focus on twentieth and twenty-first century Latinx literature, film, television, comics, and narrative theory. He is the author of Reading Junot Díaz (U of Pittsburgh P, 2015), Permissible Narratives: The Promise of Latino/a Literature (Ohio State UP, 2017), and co-author of Latinx Studies: The Key Concepts (Routledge, 2018).

Rachel Hager

Rachel Hager is a graduate student in ecology at Utah State University and an active member of the Cache Valley LGBT+ community, including as a co-founder of the Logan Pride Foundation. As a first-generation queer American from Houston, Texas, Rachel knows that diversity in all forms is essential to build a welcoming community. Wherever she lives, Rachel strives to help create a sense of belonging for the LGBT+ community within a safe and inclusive atmosphere.

Marta Halaczkiewicz

Marta Halaczkiewicz is a senior lecturer in the Intensive English Language Institute in the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies. She draws teaching inspiration from her experiences as an English (and other languages) learner, an international student, an immigrant, and academic English instructor. Her teaching and research interests include computer-assisted language learning, situated language practice, and affinity spaces.

Sharla Hart, M.Ed.

Sharla Hart, M.Ed., received a master's degree in instructional design and has served as a licensed educator and teacher coach for 17 years in the Logan City School District. She currently serves as director of Teacher Field Experiences for Utah State University.

Zitlalli Herrera

Zitlalli Herrera is a graduate assistant for the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement at the University of Utah. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and is currently in the M.Ed. Student Affairs Emphasis program at the University of Utah. As a first-generation woman of color, she is passionate about learning theories and advocating for underrepresented students.

Kylen Kaminski

Kylen Kaminski is a student at USU studying psychology and sociology. He is involved on campus with the National Society of Leadership and Success, Housing and Residence Life, and with multiple research projects on campus. He enjoys working with the community and hopes to do so in a professional capacity someday.

Macy Keith

Macy Keith is the LGBTQA+ program coordinator in the Access and Diversity Center with a background in social work and gender studies. A large portion of her position is to help educate and raise awareness of LGBTQA+ issues and rights with USU staff, faculty, and students. As a queer woman raised in Utah, Macy is dedicated to awareness and education around these topics in order to help encourage the flourishing of our LGBTQA+ students, staff, faculty, and community members.

Kayla Currier Kipping

Kayla Currier Kipping is a disabilities disciplines doctoral student at Utah State University. Her research involves increasing the representation of females with disabilities on college campuses by increasing their self-efficacy to approach post-secondary education. She hopes to someday work at Think College, the national powerhouse for creating inclusive college opportunities for students with disabilities located in Boston.

Dennis Kohler

Dennis Kohler is the director of the USU Academic Success Center. He has spent the last 30 years working with both at-risk populations and second language learners. Dennis has a background in applied linguistics and philosophy and spent several years teaching and working abroad in South Korea and Kuwait.

Dr. Trenton Landon

Dr. Trenton Landon is an assistant professor in the rehabilitation counseling program at Utah State University. His research interests include the clinical supervision of counselors, disability and counseling in rural areas, and social inclusion of people with disabilities. Some of his most recent work has explored the relationship between neurodevelopmental disabilities (specifically autism spectrum disorders and intellectual and developmental disability) and mental health disorders.

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola

Dr. Marisela Martinez-Cola is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology. The first in her family to attend college, Dr. Martinez-Cola earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan, a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and a Ph.D. from Emory University. Prior to beginning her second career as a professor, she served as a director of multicultural affairs for nine years at a variety of different institutions in the U.S. Working with diverse student populations strongly influenced her commitment to rigorous inclusion and finding connections between communities of color.

Dr. Kim Meyers

Dr. Kim Meyers is a psychology resident at USU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. She is based out of the USU-Salt Lake center and works with regional campus students throughout the state. In her free time, Kim enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Angela D. Morrison

Angela D. Morrison is an associate professor at Texas A&M University School of Law. Professor Morrison’s teaching and research interests draw on her expertise in immigration and workplace law. Prior to working at Texas A&M, Professor Morrison was a visiting assistant professor at the UNLV School of Law and the legal director of the Nevada Immigrant Resource Project at UNLV. As director of NIRP, she provided direct legal representation to noncitizen victims of trafficking and crime and conducted outreach on immigration-related issues to community partners, immigrant communities, and governmental organizations.

Before directing NIRP, Professor Morrison worked for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where she was the first EEOC trial attorney in Las Vegas, litigating employment discrimination claims in federal district courts in Hawaii, Nevada, Guam, and southern California. She graduated from the William S. Boyd School of Law summa cum laude where she was the editor-in-chief of the Nevada Law Journal and was a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic.

Dr. Mollie Murphy

Dr. Mollie Murphy is an assistant professor of communication studies. Her research examines rhetorical strategies of activists aligned with gender, racial, and environmental justice. Mollie teaches courses in gender, rhetorical criticism, and interpersonal communication. Chairman Parry has served on the Northwest Band Tribal Council on two separate occasions, most recently for the last six years. Darren also serves on the board of directors for the American West Heritage Center, in Wellsville, Utah. He attended the University of Utah and Weber State University and received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, with an emphasis on history. His passions in life include his family – his wife Melody, nine children, and 11 grandchildren – and his Tribal family. Darren was honored for preserving Shoshone history by the Idaho State Historical Society, and he wants to make sure that those who have gone before him are not forgotten. It is important to him that all peoples’ perspectives are heard and respected.

Christopher Phillips

Christopher Phillips is the electronic and information technology accessibility coordinator at Utah State University where he works to make online information accessible. He firmly believes that inclusive experiences are better for everyone. He works in the Center for Innovative Design and Instruction in Academic Instructional Services and is happy to answer any questions you might have.

Sue Reeves

Sue Reeves is a founding member of the Aggies Elevated team and is a licensed and certified rehabilitation counselor. She has worked at Utah State University since 2012. Her primary interest is supporting the mental health needs of young adults with intellectual disabilities, particularly in an inclusive post-secondary education setting.

Simone Yvonne Regan

Simone Yvonne Regan is a non-traditional student and single mother of four. She’s a U.S. ARMY veteran and is a Native American of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She enjoys public service and is an active member of the USU Student Social Work Association and Phi Alpha Honors Society.

Dr. Jim Rogers

Dr. Jim Rogers is the director of USU’s Intensive English Language Institute and a professor in the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies. His teaching has taken him around North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Dr. Rogers' work is largely informed by his 30 years of experience and theoretically grounded in sociocultural theory.

Dr. Emily Sadler-Pitts

Dr. Emily Sadler-Pitts received a Ph.D. in biology from Utah State University in 2017 and is currently a lecturer with the Department of Biology. She is proud to have been involved in the Native American Summer Mentorship Program for four years. When not spending time with her family, she continues to mentor, teach, and conduct research.

Dr. Jeff Sheen

Dr. Jeff Sheen is a founding member of the Aggies Elevated team with a background in transition for young adults with intellectual disabilities. He has worked at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at USU since 2001 and has a particular interest in developing programs and support to improve the inclusion and quality of life for individuals with disabilities and their families.

Gonca Soyer

Gonca Soyer is a doctoral candidate in human development and family sciences at the University of North Texas. She is a subject-matter expert in attachment and child development. Mrs. Soyer serves as a reviewer for Texas Council on Family Relations and National Council on Family Relations conferences. She has also published several research articles in her area and presented in national conferences. Currently, Mrs. Soyer is an instructor at Utah State University in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

Mehmet Soyer

Mehmet Soyer is a visiting assistant professor of sociology at the Utah State University. He received an M.A. in sociology in 2010 at the University of North Texas and completed a Ph.D. in sociology from the Texas Woman’s University in 2015. Dr. Soyer’s research examines the link between environmental problems and how the community responds through collective behavior, intersectional inequality, and the use of new mass media.

Dr. Marìa Luisa Spicer-Escalante

Dr. Marìa Luisa Spicer-Escalante is a professor of Spanish and linguistics in the Department of Languages, Philosophy, and Communication Studies. Her professional interests are in the training of second/foreign language teachers, pedagogical aspects of second/dual language acquisition, bilingual writing, and Latino/Latina in the United States, all areas in which she has published several journal articles.

Isael Torres

Isael Torres is a USU alumnus and currently serves as the programming advisor for the Executive Branch of Associated Students of the University of Utah, in the Department of Student Leadership & Involvement. Isael received his M.Ed. from the University of Utah’s College of Education in the Department of Education, Culture and Society, and was selected as a speaker for the 2017 TEDx Salt Lake City, in which he spoke on “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy” and the importance of educational justice for our youth. Isael was born in Logan, Utah, as a proud son of Mexican immigrants.

Dr. Celina Wille

Dr. Celina Wille is an assistant professor for Latino pograms with Utah State University Extension. Dr. Wille has worked for over 23 years in land grant institutions. Her experience includes various extension, teaching, program management, and capacity-building roles. She started her career in Extension at Texas A&M University and her most recent appointment was at Michigan State University, where she was associate director of diversity and pluralism in the College of Agriculture and taught courses on campus and abroad. Overseas, she has managed U.S. Agency for International Development projects in sub-Saharan Africa, and she is currently a technical consultant for a food security USAID-funded project in Guatemala.