Annual Symposium Fosters Inclusion

By  - 
Photo Ronda Darby

In February, Montgomery County Community College (Montco) in Pennsylvania hosted the Presidential Symposium, an annual hallmark of the institution’s commitment to equity.

Since 2010, the symposium has engaged the campus and surrounding community in ongoing dialogue around diversity and belonging. The theme for 2024 was “Transforming Lives: Breaking Barriers & Empowering Change,” a nod to the institution’s 60th anniversary.

The four-day event, loaded with activities and information to enrich the conversations around inclusion and access, was free and open to the public. Master classes, workshops, panel discussions, and more addressed topics like generational diversity gaps, mental health in allyship, and the changing landscape of education.

A new addition this year was the invitation of younger participants to join the conversation. Montco mascot Monty the Mustang hosted story time in the library, where kids received their own copy of “Just Help! How to Build a Better World” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and viewed a special screening of Disney- Pixar’s animated film “Elemental,” which connects with audiences of all ages to nurture a sense of belonging.

Dyana Williams, award-winning broadcast journalist, influential media adviser, and this year’s keynote speaker, left attendees with her personal mantra: “Anything that the mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.”

Stephanie R. Allen, EdD, director of equity, diversity and belonging at Montco, discussed how the aims of the symposium were based on the principles of the college itself.

“When we talk about intentional, it really is putting a very close eye on our language and how we consider people in every space. That is one of the things that, as we continue to grow at Montco, we want people walking onto our campus … to feel and know that they were considered at all times. … Every space is for them, so that’s what that really means. To really have a close eye on how we can make sure that we’re welcoming people and continuing to foster connectedness and belonging.”