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Inaugural ACE Summit Brings Mount Union, Surrounding Community Together for Discussions on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

February 09, 2024

ALLIANCE – On Saturday, February 3, The University of Mount Union hosted the Alliance for Community and Equity (ACE) Summit. The first event of its kind on Mount Union’s campus, the summit aimed to foster conversations around diversity and provided avenues to discuss strategies, frameworks and programs that can be implemented in order to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging on and off campus. 

The Summit was opened by plenary speaker Dr. Suzette Walden Cole, co-founder and team lead of Social Responsibility Speaks, LLC. She shared a message about how to engage in dialogue that leans into uncomfortability in order to create spaces where individuals feel more than appreciated, where their uniqueness is promoted and they can belong as their authentic selves. 

“My hope is that [attendees] will feel grounded in the movement for equity and justice because it takes work, it’s not an easy pathway. Diversity is more than race and ethnicity,” said Cole.

cole presenting Dr. Suzette Walden Cole

Among her several points, Cole left attendees with a call to action to explore how and when exclusion and harm occurs, how to give students and team members a space to share their input and feedback and recognize when the dominant voice is dominating that space and to determine where increased perspective is needed. 

“This summit is a kick-off in allowing us to understand how to have conversations with each other around our different lived experiences so we can find some common ground, and so that we can move things together,” said Mark Black, Mount Union’s chief diversity officer. “Show up as your authentic self, use your authentic voice, understand respect and dignity and understand that we are trying to prepare you to fulfill your lives, meaningful work and responsible citizenship.” 

Following the plenary, the University hosted a multitude of sessions varying in topics led by individuals ranging from alumni, non-profit leaders, professors from neighboring universities, and directors from the NCAA, all with the common goal of bringing awareness to DEIB through their unique perspectives. 

One session, “White Savior Complex,” led by Stacie Bacorn, executive director of the YWCA (Alliance,) detailed the differences between being a genuine ally and a white savior. 

Bacorn said, “If we are finding out that people haven’t heard of certain DEI terms, we want to make sure that we’re bringing those up to the forefront and making sure people understand that there are people in the community who are wanting to make a difference then bridge those gaps there.” 

pano of ace summit group

The Summit also gave the opportunity for alumni to step back onto campus and participate in the movement for DEIB. Three alumni, Dr. Christopher W. Blakey ‘06, Dr. Anthony Jones ‘06, and Clay Sanders ‘09 led a session titled “We All We Got: The Power of Friendship; A Journey Through the Bond of Three College Friends.”

Blakey said, “For myself as an alumnus, I wanted to come back able to share my experience as an undergraduate student and how it helped prepare me for the work I do and the life I lived. I just wanted to be able to share that experience with those who are attending because Mount Union’s experience has been really transformational for me.”

“This conference is just indicative of the progress that has been made,” said Sanders, “I’m coming back with pride and excitement, so happy to be here.” 

Cenell Boch, Ph.D ‘93, consultant/owner of Wellness with Cenell, LLC, gave the keynote address where she demonstrated mindfulness techniques and spoke about how mindful compassion can bridge gaps between diverse individuals. Following the keynote was one final session, and then the Summit came to a close. 

“One thing I’ve learned is how differences can make or break the experiences we have, and being able to have intentional discourse on those topics will make for a better society, better education and [better] the different systems we all encounter every day,” said Aaliyah Kinnard ‘24, psychology major, of the sessions.

boch presentingDr. Cenell Boch '93

More than 200 members from Mount Union and the community alike attended the Summit, allowing deep and meaningful conversations about DEIB to spread through and around Mount Union. 

“The Summit has been an incredible opportunity for people to come together across all different backgrounds, and that’s the beauty of it. What I would like to see come out of this is an opportunity for us to continue to grow, get better, and learn from one another in order to move forward, move the university forward, and not just the university but society as well,” said Mount Union President Greg King.

Learn more about diversity and inclusion initiatives at Mount Union by visiting