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EIU Making Excellence Inclusive

Fourth Annual Making Excellence Inclusive Conference

 MEI Conference Logo

Please join us for the 2020

“Together We RISE: Reaching Inclusivity for Student Excellence” Conference!


WE’RE GOING VIRTUAL!!! Friday, October 16, 2020 

A signature AAC&U initiative, Making Excellence Inclusive is designed to explore how colleges and universities can fully utilize the resources of diversity to achieve academic excellence for all students.

The annual RISE conference provides faculty and staff the strategies and tools to support students' academic success. The conference is also designed to raise awareness of the diverse challenges our students face, whether as members of underrepresented groups, as first-generation college students, as non-traditionally aged students, or as students with disabilities. We welcome presentations on issues concerning inclusion, diversity, equity, trauma informed methods, the impacts of Covid-19 in K-16 education, remote teaching methods, teaching/communicating students during a pandemic, the intersectionality of any of the aforementioned, and other topics that pertain to the theme.

We have made the decision to go VIRTUAL!!! We are planning our keynote address and individual sessions using a virtual meeting format. We are confident we can RISE to this occasion and meet the needs of all!! And, this year no registration fee – IT’S FREE!! 

You are warmly invited to join us regardless of whether you choose to submit a proposal.

For more information about MEI’s mission and core principles visit

  • Proposals are now being accepted for the fourth annual conference.
  • Email proposals (PDF or word) to Jim Howley at by Friday, September 4th.
  • As we will be using a virtual meeting format, proposals will be presentations of 1 or more presenters.
  • Include names/title/department/institutional affiliation and contact information for each presenter.
  • Include title, abstract and description of the session (no more than 500 words total), including details about target audience, learning objectives/outcomes, relevance to MEI objectives and conference theme.
  • Proposals will be peer reviewed and decisions will be made no later than Friday, October 2nd so final presentation can be submitted by Friday October 9th to be properly uploaded

For more information about the conference visit us at:


Previous Conferences:


 Eastern Illinois University Presents the Third Annual

Making Excellence Inclusive One-Day Conference

“Together We RISE: Reaching Inclusivity for Student Excellence” 

Friday October 11, 2019


A signature AAC&U initiative, Making Excellence Inclusive is designed to explore how colleges and universities can fully utilize the resources of diversity to achieve academic excellence for all students.

The annual RISE conference provides faculty, and staff the strategies and tools to support students' academic success. The conference is also designed to raise awareness of the diverse challenges our students face, whether as members of underrepresented groups, as first-generation college students, as non-traditionally aged students, or as students with disabilities. This year, the conference welcomes K-12 educators, as MEI understands that common understanding among all student affairs professionals is an important part of developing practices which promote inclusive excellence. To facilitate schedules, K-12 sessions are offered in the afternoon. 

See the conference schedule below or Register here for the conference. Registration is free for EIU community members,  $20 for non-EIU members, and $10 for non-EIU graduate students. 

2019 Keynote Speaker: Dr. Mary F. Howard-Hamilton 

Mary Howard-Hamilton

Dr. Mary F. Howard-Hamilton is the Bayh College of Education Coffman Distinguished Research Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at Indiana State University. Dr. Howard-Hamilton has published over 90 articles and book chapters and is a member of the Editorial Boards for several prominent journals. Dr. Howard-Hamilton has served as a higher education student affairs administrator for 15 years and a full-time faculty member for 24 years. She has spent her entire professional career in higher education for a total of 37 years working at eight institutions.

Conference Schedule

  • 7:45 a.m. | Conference Check-In and Breakfast
  • 8:15 a.m. | Welcome
  • 8:30 a.m. | Keynote Address: 8:30 a.m.
  • 9:30- 1:30 | Book signing

Session Block 1| 9:30 a.m.-10:20 a.m.

  • The Race Card Project

Presenters: Catherine Polydore, Associate Professor of Counseling and Higher Education
Zachary Newell, Dean of Booth Library
Richard England, Dean of Pine Honors College
Eastern Illinois University 

In 2010, NPR journalist Michele Norris founded the Race Card Project as a way to help people explore and share their ideas about race. By asking people to write down their thoughts on race in just six words, it is possible to create a set of condensed reflections that reveal diverse views, and intense personal experiences, while offering participants an opportunity to encounter many other perspectives quickly. The original project has flourished as an online forum ( and many institutions have created local versions of this project to foster conversations about race. This year, EIU hosts its own Race Card Project at Booth library. This session discusses the Race Card Project and concludes this experiment.

  • Leveling the Playing Field in Higher Education

Presenter: April Jackson, Director of Student Disability Services
Eastern Illinois University 

Not all disabilities are visible. Not every accommodation is necessary for every disability. Accommodations are meant to level the playing field. Students who utilize accommodations are often the first to express that they rather not have to, but that they realize where their areas of need lie and that they need support to ensure they have the same groundwork as their non-disabled peers.
This presentation shares insight into what being a student with a disability may look like at the University level. It shares stories directly from current students and shares information presented by Ms. Jackson who has the lens of a mother of a child with a disability, a special education teacher, a K-12 administrator, and now a Director, of Student Disability Services.

  • Diversity and Inclusion: Implementation of our Learnings from the Diversity Council for Independent Colleges Institute on Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts

Katherine Helm, Graduate Program Director, Professor of Psychology
Kristi Kelly, Chief Diversity Officer/Director of Multicultural Student Affairs
Jennifer Tello Buntin, Assistant Professor Sociology
Kurt Schackmuth, Vice President for Mission and Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs
Lewis University

The Council for Independent Colleges Institute on Diversity, Civility, and the Liberal Arts provided recommendations and suggestions for how to operationalize diversity, inclusion, and civility on campuses. This led to refining diversity and inclusion goals, developing a specific action plan for operationalizing goals in the areas of curriculum, hiring, retention of diverse students, faculty, and staff, and specific ways to utilize continuous assessment to determine the success of initiatives.

  • Military and Veteran Students: Common Misperceptions, Observed Challenges, and Proposed Best Practices

Wade Smith, Instructor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Eastern Illinois University

Recent research has revealed that military students and student veterans face a range of challenges in the college classroom and on college campuses. The primary focus of this session is to provide insight into the challenges commonly faced by military and veteran students in the post-9/11 era and proposed best practices through an exploration of recent academic research into these topics.

Session Block 2| 10:30 a.m.-11:20 a.m.

  • “Help! I’m Being Accused of Racism!”: From Denial to Dialogue in a Few (Not So Easy) Steps

Jeannie Ludlow, Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Eastern Illinois University

It is awful to be accused of racism. I know—it has happened to me often. My first reaction is always, “Not me! I didn’t do that!” Denial, however, does not lead to resolution. This interactive workshop for all audiences will share contemporary understandings of racism, including intersectional oppressions. As we put these accusations in context, we can become more comfortable talking about them. We will look at several models for effective responses to accusations of racism and discuss ways to assess particular situations to determine which models may work best. We will describe what effective resolution looks (and feels) like.)

  • Mental Health On the Rise: Protecting the Emotional Well-being of Today’s College Students

David Ehlers, LPC, Health and Counseling Services Counseling Clinic
Eastern Illinois University

Mental health concerns among college students has been a growing issue at universities and community colleges across the country. While young adults are less likely to receive mental health services than any other age group, approximately 75% of all mental health conditions begin by age 24, with higher rates of mental health conditions among college-age students. Underrepresented groups encounter additional barriers in order to receive the services they need. Participants at this session will get a closer look at the research related to mental health and college students, learn how to identify and help distress students, and collaborate to find better solutions to support students succeed personally and academically.

  • Access Does Not Equal Inclusion: Lessons and Reminders from The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students

Juanita C. Cross. Academic Advisor, Academic Success Center
Eastern Illinois University

Do some higher education policies/procedures inadvertently hinder students instead of help? Why do some students reach out for help while others do not? This session introduces participants to the book “The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students.” This book written by Anthony Jack (Ph.D. Harvard University, 2016) challenges the notion that first generation students are homogeneous. Through extensive interviewing, Anthony Jack examines two groups, “the privileged poor” and “the doubly disadvantaged.”  Participants will learn the differences between these two groups; the “hidden curriculum”; and how to start viewing first generation students through a different lens. Discussion will also center around three university policies examined in this book.

  • UDL and ALCs: The Card Game Version

Dr. Newton Key, Director of Faculty Development and Innovation, Professor of History
Eastern Illinois University

This presentation draws from Thomas J. Tobin and Kirsten T. Behling, Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018), and the work of David Reid at Gould Evans, developer of K-12 “UDL Learning Spaces Idea Kit.” The latter includes Student Experience Cards, Educator Experience Cards, and Paradigms Cards. Gould Evans are architects and the “game” at times focuses on space design, whereas Universal Design for Learning (UDL) focuses on curriculum design. The presenter will offer a brief version of the participatory game having the attendees pick from their cards (examples from headings of current cards: offer structured choices, support varied processes, variety of collaboration settings, interactive walls) key components. The session will close by tying these space considerations back to the “reach everyone, teach everyone” UDL principles that make teaching and learning more enjoyable for all.

Session Block 3| 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.

  • Seeking “A More Perfect Union”: Deconstructing the psychological impact of racism and economic marginalization through awareness, self-action, and cross-cultural engagement

Carole Rene’ Collins Ayanlaja, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership
Eastern Illinois University

Over 100 years ago sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist, WEB Dubois predicted that race would emerge as a key social problem. Today, its power to shape the lives of those living in the United States remains. This presentation applies theoretical perspectives and identifies lived experiences that project the impact of inequity, addressing key questions through informative dialogue and interaction focused on social/emotional mindfulness.

  • The Little Hurts That Undermine Equity: A Workshop to Identify and Challenge Microaggressions In the Classroom

Sydney Hart, Professor of Anthropology and Sociology
Wilbur Wright College

Rooted in the myth and ideology of reverse and color-blind racism, even people with good intentions can express stereotypes and implicit biases in micro-aggressions: little behaviors that perpetuate stereotypes and contribute to a climate of intolerance. Micro-aggressions add up to create hostile environments and personal harm. In this participatory workshop, we will build equity-mindedness by learning to identify micro-aggressions, discuss effects, and brainstorm ways to manage them in our classrooms, colleges, and lives.

  • Identifying Diversity and Committing to Inclusivity in the Online Classroom (cancelled)

Dr. Holly Farley, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Eastern Illinois University

In fall 2015, there were 5,954,121 students enrolled in any distance education courses at degree-granting postsecondary institutions. As this number continues to grow and online education becomes more accessible to all, education becomes more equitable to all students. With this shift, students from all backgrounds will be represented and the diversification of online classrooms will also increase. In a traditional classroom, diversity can be considered an asset if the instructor recognizes the value in the varied backgrounds of students, and leverage this through intentional pedagogies that improve success for all. Can traditional pedagogies be transferred to the online classroom?  This presentation will discuss inclusive strategies for the online classroom and provide the opportunity for the group to share experiences and strategies that have been successful in the online classroom.

  • The Path to Persistence: Helping to Guide Our Most Vulnerable Students

Alexis Straub, Graduate Student, College Student Affairs
Eastern Illinois University

In 2015, Dr. Joann Horton identified 50 risk factors that can affect a student’s chance of success in college.  Some of these include background characteristics, personal traits, and environmental factors that work together to create barriers for students wishing to obtain their degrees.  Yet, there are many who persist despite their circumstances which would have predicted a different outcome. The presenter’s research focuses on these at-risk students and how they have persisted to graduation. The students’ stories and strategies will be shared in order to help student affairs professionals and educators and give them the chance to reflect on their own practices with students and how they are catalyzing success.

Lunch| 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

Session Block 4| 1:30 p.m.-2:20 p.m.

  • Making Media Inclusive Across Grade Levels and Disciplines

Robin L. Murray, English Department
Eastern Illinois University

Through this session, participants will explore ways to actively and intentionally engage with diversity in a media-driven curriculum, highlighting effective ways to increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathetic understanding of the ways individuals interact with systems and institutions through thoughtful content choices. This session will highlight ways to diversify film, video, and other media content choices to address group and social differences, including race/ ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. The session will especially address the need to incorporate various media texts that increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of ableist systems and institutions. This session is intended for K-12 audiences. 

  • Disabling “Disability”: Serving as an Ally for People with Disabilities

Jim Howley, Director, General Studies Program
Eastern Illinois University

In this session, participants will learn key terms related to disability as well as mechanisms for rejecting ableist practices.  The central focus is on developing strategies to use in advocating for people with disabilities as well as how to serve as an ally.  In addition, participants will discuss scenarios in which serving as an advocate could best be accomplished.

  • Making Excellence Inclusive: Advancing Equity Minded Practice

Catherine L. Polydore, Chair, Making Excellence Inclusive; Professor, Department of Counseling and Higher Education
Eastern Illinois University

Making excellence inclusive, a brain child of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), espouses high quality, practical liberal education should be the standard of excellence for all students. This necessitates the practice of equity-mindedness, one of its core principles. This presentation clarifies this principle and provides concrete examples for practitioners.

  • Using Storytelling to Create An Intercultural Awareness At Eastern Illinois University (CANCELED)

Toluwalase Solomon, Graduate Assistant, Curriculum and Instruction
Eastern Illinois University

Despite the increasing enrollment of international students at Eastern Illinois University (EIU), little is known about the integration of international students into the larger community. Communicatively speaking, the internationalization of higher education can be understood as interaction between different cultures. Culture is communication, Communication is culture. (James Neuliep, 2006). Supporting this stance, initiatives that encourage intercultural learning and interaction between international students and their host community are vital. Although intercultural awareness creates knowledge, motivations and skills needed to communicate, it also enhances interrelated sensitivities of different cultures. For this reason, the presenter intends to speak from a personal perspective to create college wide understanding on the realities of acculturation and prospective contributions international students may offer at Eastern Illinois University.

  • Speaking the Language of Diversity and Inclusion: From Political Correctness to Communication Competence

Presenter: Richard G. Jones, Jr., Associate Professor

Eastern Illinois University

Although we’ll never be perfect, mindful and competent communication regarding diversity and inclusion is an aspirational goal. This presentation focuses on how we can all improve our communication when it comes to cultural identities, including race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and ability. Engaging in mindful competent communication related to diversity and inclusion is not the same as engaging in “political correctness.” Political correctness can create a pressured climate that can lead people to avoid discussions about cultural identities or avoid people with different cultural identities. Our goal in this session is to learn a foundational vocabulary along with some adaptable guidelines that can help us in a variety of communication contexts.

 Session Block 5| 2:30 p.m.-3:20 p.m.

  • African American Student Retention at Predominantly White Institutions

Candace Thompson, Graduate Student, College Student Affairs
Mona Davenport, Director of the Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement
Jon Coleman, Assistant Professor of Counseling & Higher Education
Eastern Illinois University

How is higher education different for African American students from their majority peers?  The history of higher education for African Americans in the United States has been one of struggle both for access and for success.  This session presents information on the changing nature and needs of African American students in higher education and how faculty and staff can support these students and improve student retention.

  • Recognizing and Rectifying the Misrepresentations within History-Based Curricula

John H. Bickford, Associate Professor of Social Studies/History Education
Eastern Illinois University

This session demonstrates how children’s and young adult non-fiction books, literature, and textbooks (mis)represent the Black Freedom Movement, or the centuries of slavery beyond the Civil Rights Movement. If unchallenged by teachers, students will remain ignorant of slavery’s ubiquity and brutality, its centrality to America’s emerging economy, and enslaved African Americans’ humanity and resistance. The presenter will demonstrate how teachers, parents, and students can first identify and then fill the gaps within misrepresentative curricula. This session is intended for K-12 audiences. 

  • Difficult Issues and Safe Space in the Classroom 

Jeannie Ludlow, Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Eastern Illinois University

Even as our media conversations and our daily lives become more polarized and less cooperative, we increasingly use the language of “safe space” to describe our classrooms, especially when we discuss difficult or contentious issues in class. But the sentence, “This classroom is a safe space” can have many meanings. This interactive workshop for teachers, professors, and others who work with students will share different perspectives on “safe space” classrooms. We will discuss the different forms student resistance to difficult topics can take. And, we will work together to strategize effective ways to talk about difficult topics and to think about “safety” in class and on campus.

Register here for the conference


Archived programs from previous RISE conferences can be accessed online.

RISE 2017

RISE 2018





Related Pages

Contact Information

Making Excellence Inclusive

College of Arts & Humanities
600 Lincoln Avenue Charleston, IL 61920

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