Diversity Retreat Frames Inclusion as a Skills-building Process

Ron IdokoJust inside Ron Idoko’s office is a small table adorned with a large bowl and a wooden chessboard. Since arriving at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion  (ODI) as diversity and multicultural program manager in April, Idoko has claimed the title of office chess champion.

“You have a set number of pieces and one board, but there are so many possibilities, so many opportunities and so many different ways to attack a particular issue,” said Idoko. “It helps me think, ‘Am I doing everything possible? Am I looking at different perspectives, different opportunities, areas of strength?’”

It’s a mindset he has expanded beyond the chess board, to his new position at ODI and the upcoming University-wide Diversity Retreat.


Bringing great work to life

This year’s retreat is scheduled for Tuesday, June 25, in Alumni Hall. “Our priority is to foster not just awareness of the topics of the issues, but have people think about collaboration and the ways people can foster unique diversity and inclusion or equity initiatives within their spaces and spheres of influence,” said Idoko.

Idoko believes all members of the Pitt community can foster that awareness and advance inclusion. “Anyone on any level has the ability to really help change Pitt. So how do we do that? How do we transform this space to provide an environment where equity, justice and inclusion are our true priorities? How do we meet the standards that have been laid out in the The Plan for Pitt?”

The retreat includes two featured speakers: Leigh Patel, inaugural associate dean of equity and justice in the School of Education, and Crystal Fleming, associate professor of sociology at Stony Brook University.

Eight workshops will cover topics such as digital accessibility, community engagement and diverse leadership and identities. Emiola Oriola, program manager in the Office of Interfaith Dialogue and Engagement, will lead a community panel discussion. Idoko sees engagement as a common theme of the retreat: "It truly is a skills-building process to better understand how to engage each other," he said.

The retreat will conclude with a poster presentation. “That allows those folks who are doing great things in this space to bring it to life, to emphasize how great their work is and give ideas or templates to employees in other departments and units to employ new practices,” said Idoko.

Now in its fourth year, the retreat has moved to Alumni Hall to accommodate the increasing attendance. Idoko reported that there are open spots available for faculty and staff and encouraged people to register online.

“Folks want to know about this,” said Idoko. “They want to be in tune. They want to know how to be not only a better citizen, but better connected to folks around them.”