“Our goal today is to open minds,” said the American Conference on Diversity President & CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley to a packed room of educators, faculty, students, and diversity professionals at “Who Has the Access C.O.D.E.? Positioning a Generation for the Best Careers, Opportunities, and Diversity Through Education” conference on November 16.

Williams-Riley’s remarks at the 12th annual event set the tone for a full day of dynamic speakers, interactive panel discussions, and insightful workshops at Saint Peter’s University, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. earned his Doctorate of Divinity in 1965. The event also kicked off the American Conference on Diversity’s “Defining Moments of Diversity” video vignettes, which will be filmed throughout the upcoming year to celebrate and commemorate our 65th anniversary in New Jersey of bridging cross-cultural divides.

Other conference highlights included:

►The “Pursuit of Excellence in Higher Education” Award presentation by L’Oreal SVP, Diversity and Inclusion, and American Conference on Diversity Board Trustee Angela Guy to Edward Bullock, former Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at L’Oreal and a longtime supporter of the American Conference on Diversity. “Diversity is the ability to transform communities. It is the best vehicle that we have for innovation,” said Bullock. “I applaud the fantastic work that you’re doing here … and thank you so much for this great award.”

►A heartfelt keynote address by Camelia M. Valdez, Esq., the first Latina county prosecutor in New Jersey and the first woman prosecutor in Passaic County, who shared her professional biases as a female law-enforcement official and personal struggles as the mother of two autistic girls. “Who has the Access C.O.D.E.?” she asked the audience. “You do. Our goal, our inspiration should be to serve our young people and to help them achieve in every endeavor.”

►A fact-filled panel discussion moderated by James Harris, president of the NJ State Conference of the NAACP: “We have 600 school districts in New Jersey and less than 20 are led by African Americans. We have a challenge!” Four panelists discussed in-depth lingering statewide social issues, such as providing access to the underserved and ending segregation in K-12 school. They included Hon. Joseph V. Doria Jr., Ed.D., Director of School of Education at Saint Peter’s University; Donnie W. Evans, Superintendent of Paterson Schools; Hon. Rochelle Hendricks, Secretary of New Jersey Higher Education; and Ebony Thomas, Director of Campus & Diversity Recruiting at Prudential.

►Eight thought-provoking workshops, each facilitated by academics, diversity practitioners, social-justice leaders, or EEO experts, on the following topics: Navigating Diversity: The Role of Corporate, Non-profit, and Government Employers in Positioning this Diverse Generation in the Modern Workplace; The Screwed Generation? Fact or Fiction?; School Choice: Making NJ Education More – or Less – Accessible?; Multicultural Education: Serving the Underserved and Undocumented; Digital Access: Technology and the Digital Divide; The Value of a General Liberal Arts Education and the Practical Application of Professional Studies: Keys for Access and Professional Success; ACCESS Beyond the Degree: Retooling and Developing Job Skills to Provide You Access in a Knowledge-based Society; Affirmative Action and Diversity: The Legal Landscape for Access and Diversity Initiatives Since the Bakke Decision.

To view images of the Diversity Issues in Higher Education conference, visit https://picasaweb.google.com/103417478876720353538/HIGHER….

About Saint Peter’s University

Saint Peter’s University, inspired by its Jesuit, Catholic identity, commitment to individual attention and grounding in the liberal arts, educates a diverse community of learners in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs to excel intellectually, lead ethically, serve compassionately and promote justice in our ever-changing urban and global environment. For more information, please visit http://www.spc.edu/pages/1.asp.

About the American Conference on Diversity

The programs, services, and initiatives of the American Conference on Diversity are among the most important work focused on creating a more inclusive society. It is the unfinished business of living in a highly diverse nation: educating and empowering our next generation of leaders; enhancing our workplaces; and helping to create inclusive communities. The American Conference on Diversity builds on a historic mission and creates programs and activities relevant and vital to 21st Century life. It is a journey we can all take together. The American Conference on Diversity operates eight chapters to help us to educate and empower leaders and bring our messages of inclusion and respect to communities throughout New Jersey: Atlantic County Chapter, Bayonne Chapter, Central Jersey Chapter, Essex County Chapter, Greater Bergen Chapter, Hudson County Chapter, Jersey Shore Chapter, and Mercer County Chapter. Visit www.AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to learn more.