“Critical Conversations” Diversity Conference

April 10 – April 12, 2017
Memorial Union, North Dakota State University

Stream the Event Live Here


“Critical Conversations” was created to further understand the various issues surrounding race and diversity, provide a venue for "voices" to be heard, and to determine our roles and responsibilities in creating positive social change.  We realize that these conversations can be difficult as there are many perspectives, privileges, and needs we all possess.  At the same time, the organizers believe that it is imperative to have these conversations (in as many places as possible) to begin the transformational process of individual understanding, growth, and our ability to create change.  Organizers acknowledge the complexity and multitude of diversity issues and that we do not have all the answers.  To guide us along our journey, we invited four well-known speakers from the region that offer unique perspectives on diversity.


What’s so special about this diversity conference?

  • Speakers will be facilitating post keynote dialogues on creating an action plan.
  • A keynote designed specifically on developing a diversity action plan for you as an individual.
  • The entire conference structure is based on speakers and attendees sharing their own personal stories and not just lecture.
  • Breakout dialogue sessions on issues concerning the current political arena, Black Lives Matter, as well as issues concerning GLBTQ.
  • To reduce costs, attendees can request a Host Family to stay with for free.

Register Online


Stream the Event Live Here


Conference Goals:
The “Critical Conversations” Conference is designed to provide a platform to allow participants to discuss local and national issues regarding diversity in a safe, educational, and forward moving manner.  The goals of the conference include:

  1. Create an environment for critical conversations to be had in a respectful and thoughtful way
  2. Explore often misunderstood issues of diversity
  3. Create an action plan for having conversations about diversity with others
  4. Develop and discern individual and collective responsibilities in creating positive social change
  5. Share individual stories of challenge, passion, and triumph

Topics for 2017:
This year's Critical Conversations Conference will focus on three topics: "The Dakota Access Pipeline"; "Poverty, Adversity, and Race"; and "Unifying Our Voices".  In addition to hearing from our expert panel of speakers, participants will have a structured dialogue facilitated by the speakers.  Afterwards, participants will have the opportunity to create an action plan to take back to their respective campus or organization.

Special Activity: Got a story to tell?  To go along with keynote speaker, Michael Strand's Unifying Voices Cup Activity, share your story and receive a cup made by him.  Simply choose a cup from your home/work that symbolizes or represents a personal story of struggle, challenge, and/or triumph.  Stories can be about issues of diversity, family, and/or work.  On a 5 inch by 5 inch (5"x 5") piece of paper, write or type (18 font or larger) a synopsis of your story. Insert your story in your cup, and mail it to: NDSU: 246-Memorial Union, PO Box 6050, Fargo, ND, 58108 (you can also bring your cup to the conference).  Your story and your cup will be put on display during the conference as a show of solidarity and as a symbol of, "Unifying Our Voices" while celebrating our diversity


Contact Steve Winfrey


Presented By

Region IV-W
“Critical Conversations” Diversity Conference
“Critical Conversations” Diversity Conference


This event is most likely to influence these groups.

  • This event it open to all stud


Let others know you are coming!


All keynotes and meals are located in the NDSU Memorial Union Ballroom, unless otherwise noted.

Mon, Apr 10

12:00 pm
Early Arrival for Preconference Workshiop
2:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Pre-conference Workshop - "Poverty Simulation"
12:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Check-in & Registration
6:30 pm – 6:45 pm
Opening Welcome and Dinner
7:15 pm – 8:30 pm
Keynote Speaker
Michael Strand - Unifying Voices
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Evening Entertainment: Hip Hop Team
9:30 pm – 11:00 pm
Advisor Social / Student Social

Tue, Apr 11

8:00 am – 9:00 am
Continental Breakfast
9:00 am – 10:00 am
Native American Drum Group
10:00 am – 11:00 am
Keynote Speaker
Michael Yellowbird - Dakota Access Pipeline
11:00 am – 12:00 am
Critical Conversations Dialogue
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
12:30 pm – 1:00 pm
1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Critical Conversations Dialogue
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Keynote Speaker
Aida Martinez-Freeman - Turning Our Stories Into Action for Justice
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Aztec Dancers
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Travel to the NDSU Scheels Center
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Keynote Speaker
Inky Johnson - Poverty, Adversity, & Race
8:30 pm
Advisor Social / Student Social

Wed, Apr 12

8:00 am – 9:00 am
Breakfast on your own
9:00 am – 10:00 am
Closing Keynote Speaker
Michael Strand - Unifying Voices II
10:00 am – 10:30 am
Diversity Action Plan Summary
10:30 am

Pre-Conference Programs & Events

What is it like to live in poverty?

During the simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families, from single parents caring for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain self-sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter, and other basic necessities while interacting with various community resources such as a pawn shop, Community Action Agency, community health agency, and much more.

The goal of the simulation is to enable participants to view poverty from different angles in an experiential setting. Participants will begin to understand what life is like with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress and become motivated to be part of the solution to ending poverty in the United States.

As one participant noted, “The simulation made me realize that living in poverty is very stressful. I only had to experience this for about two hours and by the second week, I was ready to give up. We had $10, no job, were losing our house, the pawn shop wouldn’t buy anything from us, and social services were taking to too long to get any money. It is hard to think that our 15 minutes is a normal day for someone in poverty."

Come and join us for this life-altering simulation and learn how you can take it back to your campus or organization!  This is a first come first serve basis for the first 80 registrants.

Cost is included in the conference registration.

Poverty Simulation

Monday, April 10th • 02.00 PM – 05.00 PM

View More Details

NDSU Memorial Union Ballroom


  • Inky Johnson

    Inky Johnson

    Poverty, Adversity, & Race

    Speaker Bio

  • Dr. Michael Yellow Bird

    Dr. Michael Yellow Bird

    The Dakota Access Pipeline and Indigenous People

    Speaker Bio

  • Dr. Michael Strand

    Dr. Michael Strand

    Unifying Voices

    Speaker Bio

  • Aida Martinez-Freeman

    Aida Martinez-Freeman

    Turning Our Stories Into Action for Justice

    Speaker Bio


North Dakota State University Memorial Union

NDSU Memorial Union
Fargo, ND

The Memorial Union opened during Homecoming Week in October 1953. A statement of purpose issued in 1954 proclaimed, "It's not just a building, it is also an organization and a program." The Memorial Union has continually been remodeled to keep up with the growth of the student body, and services change to meet students'needs. Operational funding is provided in part by student activity fees.

Beginning in 2005, the Memorial Union underwent a large construction project. The building was re-dedicated on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. The structure has undergone a $22 million remodeling project, including the renovation of 124,000 square feet of the previously existing building and an addition of more than 63,000 square feet. 

Hotel Accommodations

Hotel Name Hotel Address Hotel Phone Room Rates/Night
Candlewood Suites
1831 NDSU Research Park Drive Fargo, ND 58102
701.231.8200 $105 
Homewood Suites 2021 16th Street North, Fargo, ND 58102 701.235.3150 $99
Days Inn 1507 19th Ave North, Fargo, ND 58102 701.232.0000 $93.49

Host Family Requests

If you are hoping to save a little on travel expenses and want to meet other Student Affairs colleagues, stay with a host family in Fargo! Due to the nature of the Critical Conversations Conference and the hope that more stories can be told and voices to be heard, several student affairs staff have volunteered to serve as host families.  There is no cost to stay with a host family during the conference.  Priority will be given by distance from Fargo, faculty/staff bringing students, and a burning desire to share your story!  

Book Your Hotel Now

For hotel questions, please contact:
Steve Winfrey
steve.winfrey@ndsu.edu Frank Oakgrove

up Back to Top

Get in Touch with NASPA