“A tremendous organization!” “Fascinating discussion on the role of women in technology.” “One of the most powerful videos I’ve ever seen.”

This is a sampling of Twitter posts shared by engaged participants who attended the 13th Annual Diversity Issues in Higher Education conference November 8 at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Titled “Bridging the Digital Divide: Equity, Education, and Technology in the Global Marketplace,” the full-day event addressed critical issues for higher-education administrators, faculty, staff, students, diversity and inclusion leaders, career-advancement professionals, and recruiters. It also crystalized the important role technology plays in sharing our diverse stories.

“I encourage everyone to think about the social inheritance that we’re pushing forward and focus on your personal journeys when using technology,” said our President and CEO Elizabeth Williams-Riley (shown, left). “Social media helps us open windows, not close doors. It helps us reflect on the power among us.”


The thought-provoking event kicked off with a panel discussion on ways to narrow the digital divide. Panelists included the President of North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce Brian Tangora (shown, center)  and The Respect Project’s Dr. Steve Dranoff (right), who explored the pros and cons of the digital lifestyle. Mr. Tangora, for example, told the story of a colleague who turned to social media after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and attracted 60,000 followers, many with MS, for daily inspiration. Dr. Dranoff shared some of the brain development differences that often redirect youth from understanding empathy, especially when using social media to become their public voice.

Participants had the opportunity to attended four insightful workshops:

Access, Technology and Gender, moderated by Teri Corso (College of Saint Elizabeth) with panelists Marge Kelly (Consultant, IT Senior Executive, and Women’s Advocate), Kit Nugent (85 Broads), and Michael Qaissaunee (Brookdale Community College). This session explored how technology empowers people to make global change, why women are absent from the fields of computer science, and what they can do to rise to executive levels.

Human Trafficking and Digital Access, moderated by Dr. Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel (Montclair State University) with panelists Dr. Nicole Bryan (Montclair School of Business) and Maybelle Jadotte-Clairvil (New Jersey Office of Homeland Security & Preparedness). This workshop addressed the issue of human trafficking for children and other marginalized groups. With the help of a grant from Microsoft, Montclair State researchers hope to play a pivotal role in bringing an end to the online sex trafficking of children.

Creating the Ideal Classroom: How Students Learn with Tech Access, moderated by Dr. Jennifer Jones (New Jersey City University) with panelists AJ Kelton (Director of Emerging Instructional Technology, Montclair State University), Brian Friedlander (College of St. Elizabeth), and Dr. Edina Renfro-Michel (Associate Professor, Counseling and Educational Leadership). This discussion examined technology’s use in the classroom, its impact on education programs, and how it can be accessed for special needs. The group also reflected on our wants versus needs for technology enhancements and if they are rooted in economics.


It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses: The Underbelly of Technology, moderated by Charlie Williams (Kean University) with panelists Dean Shannon Gary (Montclair State University, center), David Lichtenberg (legal firm of Jackson Lewis, left), and Claudia Guevara (Student, Montclair State University, right). By sharing case history of cyber-bullying, the panelists illustrated how the negative use of technology can impact employment and college admission opportunities.


Before moderating the afternoon keynote addresses, Montclair State’s Director of Equity & Diversity Dr. Abreu-Hornbostel shared her personal journey of faith on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “a tremendous night of injustice” in which more than 250 synagogues were burned, 7,000 Jewish businesses looted, and dozens of Jewish people killed. That was followed by a spoken word performance by Chris Rodriguez (shown) who creatively brought to life the journey and legacy of racism passed along to a 15-year-old white female student protesting integration during the Little Rock School desegregation. Artist Andrea Strongwater, whose mother’s family emigrated from Poland, described her personal story for creating The Lost Synagogues of Europe, a collection of paintings depicting places of worship that were eradicated before and during WWII.

Capping off the diversity conference, attendees viewed a series of moving documentaries filmed by Steve McCarthy of Montclair State’s School of Communication and Media. “There’s something really important about telling your story…it gives you a voice,” he said. The videos reflected the essence of diversity, ranging from an overweight high-school student who was bullied to a Montclair State student and recipient of a heart transplant who met his donor’s parents only to discover that, although they were different races, he and his donor were more alike than unalike.


“Let’s vow to make diversity go viral,” said Chris Fitzpatrick, talent-acquisition manager at Enterprise Rent-a-Car and Montclair State alumnus, during the closing remarks. “You don’t have to be a minority to value diversity or a woman to advocate for gender equality. You just have to be open-minded.”

Diversity Issues in Higher Education conference exhibitors included: Enterprise Rent-a-Car, North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Homeland Security, 85 Broads, WMCA Radio, Save Our Schools New Jersey, Mark Van Buren Peaceful Life Approach.

A technology/education resource guide will be available at next month.

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, which has been serving schools, organizations, workplaces, and communities in New Jersey since 1948, 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 Regional Community Networks covering all of New Jersey. Visit to learn more.


Gail Zoppo

Media Relations Consultant

109 Church Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08901