University News

Saint Joseph’s 5th Annual Day of Dialogue Asks: Does Everyone Have an Equitable Seat at the Table?

The annual event centered on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging returns on Feb. 13, 2024.

Tiled collage of books and posters for Day of Dialogue promotion

by Diane Holliday

When Saint Joseph's University’s Day of Dialogue committee set out to plan this year’s event — arguably one of the University’s largest and most well-attended events of the year — they considered programming and speakers with one question in mind: “Is everyone coming to the table with the same invitation, ease, sense of belonging and dignity?”

The annual daylong event, which seeks to answer this question through action-oriented sessions that underscore diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, and is open to the entire Saint Joseph’s community.

“We aim to provide education on one day that helps us as a community continue to question if the proverbial table is built with all people in mind,” says Jill Welsh, MSW, director of the Faith-Justice Institute and one of four Day of Dialogue co-chairs.

To ensure all voices were heard in the planning process, Welsh and fellow chairs Dick Wisenbaker, MBA ’22, director of enterprise product portfolio management; Jennifer Hasse, MLIS, head of library access services and student experience; and Janée Burkhalter, PhD, associate provost for diversity, equity and inclusion; solicited feedback from community members on event themes and areas of focus. While countless ideas surfaced, there was a particular interest in the topics of disability and accessibility, which attendees will see woven into the almost-90-session day.

Headshot of Christina Mallon
Alumna Christina Mallon, BBA '10, will deliver the morning keynote, "Building A Better Future Through Inclusive Design."

“Our morning keynote and afternoon film sessions focus on disability and inclusive design, and we’re thrilled by what the speaker and the subject of the film have to teach us,” says Hasse.

Christina Mallon, BBA ’10, the morning keynote speaker, is an inclusive designer who identifies as neurodivergent and experiences dual arm paralysis. She is the principal director of inclusive design at Microsoft and serves on the board of Open Style Lab. She was also featured in the Saint Joseph’s University Magazine article “Inclusive Spaces and the People Who Make Them Accessible.”

Programming following the first keynote ranges from “Neurodiversity and Work: Employment, Identity and Support for Neurominorities” to “Hair Politics in the Workplace” and from “How to Support the Transgender Community” to “Waiting for Change: The Racist Implications of the Tipped Minimum Wage.”

Headshot of Dzifa Kpodzo
Dzifa Kpodzo, MD, division chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Albany Medical Center, will deliver the evening keynote, "Navigating The Path – A Journey To The Glass Cliff."

With the University’s recent establishment of the School of Nursing and Allied Health and School of Heath Professions, attendees will also note programs focused on representation and empathy in healthcare, as well as supporting individuals with substance-use disorder. The evening keynote will feature healthcare veteran Dzifa Kpodzo, MD, division chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at Albany Medical Center, in a fireside chat with School of Nursing and Allied Health Dean Melissa Snyder, DEd, FNP, CNE.

Shuttles will be offered to and from the University’s Lancaster and University City locations, where many students take health-related courses. For Lancaster Hawks, this will be their first Day of Dialogue following the merger with Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in January.

“It’s been wonderful to see the interest and excitement from our Lancaster community members,” says Wisenbaker. “As we come together as a single university, the Day of Dialogue is an opportunity to build bridges between our locations and institutional cultures.”

New this year for all attendees is a community engagement timeblock, featuring power yoga, meditation and an opportunity to participate in a collaborative art project.

“We also worked with the Office of Administrative Services and Aramark to have a community lunch on the day for faculty and staff,” says Welsh. “This will be a nice opportunity for employees to come together and share in the spirit of the day.”

Film artwork for "Wonderfully Made"
"Wonderfully Made's" director and subject will be joining Day of Dialogue for a virtual session.

Shared programming also includes a screening of the film “Wonderfully Made,” whose subject, Kashmiere Culberson, refuses to let her disability impede on her pursuit of happiness and self-love. Both Culberson and the film’s director, Benita Ozoude, will be joining Day of Dialogue for a virtual session in the afternoon.

“Day of Dialogue is a good example of what we can accomplish and experience as a greater community when we work together and we all have a place of belonging,” says Hasse.

Whether attending in person or online, for one session or the whole day, the Day of Dialogue invites attendees to own their role in making the University community more inclusive.

There’s still time to register for this year’s Day of Dialogue! To learn more, visit Registration closes Feb. 8 at 5 p.m.