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EIU Media Relations

EIU’s annual Together We RISE Conference sees success, growth in 2023


Event’s 7th year marked by increased interest, transformative topics, and growing attendance

(Charleston, IL) – Eastern Illinois University celebrated another successful “Making Excellence Inclusive (MEI)”/Together We Rise Conference Friday, October 20, according to chair of the RISE Conference Committee Dr. Catherine Polydore. With more than 15 insightful event sessions, a keynote address by University of North Dakota associate professor and Diversity and Inclusion authority Dr. Tamba-Kuii Bailey, and featuring a guest list representing more than 17 colleges and universities across the nation, this year’s event—the seventh time EIU has hosted it—was the largest and most attended in Eastern’s history.

“RISE is always a highlight of the fall semester,” said EIU President Jay Gatrell. “I am grateful for the leadership of MEI and their sustained efforts to make our campus a model for inclusive excellence and student success.”

“We remain committed to inclusive excellence as it relates to all members of our campus,” Polydore added. “We also recognize the role that we play as a model for our K-12 partners. Our vision is to become the premier diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging conference in the region by inspiring a growing number of individuals to look forward to being part of this space each year.”

The 2023 Together We RISE Conference took place at EIU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. University Union in Charleston using a mix of in-person, hybrid, and virtual formats. Specific features of the conference included a two-hour Safe Zone training hosted by EIU’s Dr. Tanya Willard, coordinator of EIU’s Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, special guest speaker Dr. Stacey Borboa-Peterson (University of North Dakota), and a variety of breakout sessions focusing on empowering students of color, transpositive learning, identity-building, first-year student inclusivity, and the university’s comprehensive mission and formative role in advancing civic education and promoting mental and physical health and wellness. Several other EIU students, faculty, and staff served as conference presenters and subject matter experts this year as well.

EIU Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Ryan Hendrickson shared his gratitude that EIU’s Together We Rise Conference continues to receive so much support and enthusiasm from event planners, presenters, and attendees. He is excited to see how the conference will continue to grow in the future to support student excellence and inclusivity at EIU and at peer institutions whose attendees will bring with them new knowledge and understanding gained at this conference back to their respective campuses.

“We’re proud of the relational and transformative opportunities we offer our students at EIU, and we’re excited to create and offer a collaborative and friendly learning environment that advances positive, impactful experiences for EIU and other higher education institutions in Illinois and across the nation,” Hendrickson said.

Polydore, Hendrickson, and the members of the RISE Conference Committee would like to publicly thank all those who attended this year’s event. Both share that the committee is looking forward to continuously enhancing the conference’s success and reach in years to come in alignment with EIU’s mission, which includes a commitment to diversity and inclusion and fostering opportunities for student-faculty scholarship and applied learning experiences to create responsible citizens and leaders.

EIU prepares students to accomplish their life goals through a combination of quality academics, personal relationships, and both on-campus and online learning opportunities. For more information about Eastern Illinois University, including its broad array of academic and career readiness programs, or any of EIU’s other community-based services and opportunities, visit or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.



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Media Relations
Josh Reinhart,
Public Information Coordinator

Booth House
Eastern Illinois University
600 Lincoln Ave.
Charleston, IL 61920

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