Speaker series, Growth Through Knowledge and Understanding, explores diversity, social justice, racial equality, and change

The Westmoreland Diversity Coalition and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg are partnering to showcase Growth Through Knowledge and Understanding, a six-event series of workshops and speakers designed to provide information and opportunities to discuss key issues related to diversity, social justice, racial equality, Black Lives Matter Movement, racial justice, privilege, becoming an ally, and the future. At the core of each of these events is the desire to increase knowledge and understanding of each issue as well as providing ideas and direction on how to be an agent of change in our communities.

"The Coalition is proud to partner with Pitt Greensburg on this project,” said Carlotta Paige, founder and co-chair of the Westmoreland Diversity Coalition. “This series is especially important because it is designed to educate the community on a number of social justice and related issues that are relevant in today's environment. We hope this series has an impact on the community and that people learn from these workshops."

The series will run from August through November. Each workshop requires advance registration, which is free to all students and requires a nominal $5 fee per session from all others. The link and password to the virtual session will be provided once registration is completed. Chairing this series are Paige and Al Thiel, director of the Student Center and Student Involvement at Pitt-Greensburg. For additional information, please contact Paige at westmorelanddiversitycoalition@gmail.com or Thiel at ajt58@pitt.edu.

“I am excited about this opportunity. As the leadership at the University of Pittsburgh has expressed, it is not just on campus that we need to fight racial inequality and injustice but in our communities and region,” said Thiel. “I believe that Westmoreland County can become a place that is welcoming to all people regardless of background, and Pitt-Greensburg can be at the forefront.”

Judaism Explained -- Rabbi Lenny Sarko -- August 25 -- 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

“Judaism Explained,” a workshop led by Rabbi Lenny Sarko of Congregation Emanu-El Israel (Greensburg, PA), will open the series on August 25 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sarko will define and clarify Judaism, presenting its foundational concepts. He’ll also show its approach as compared to other religions and provide unique perspectives in its understanding. There will also be time for attendees to ask questions.

Sarko, who began his tenure at Congregation Emanu-El Israel in September 2019, was ordained from the Rabbinical Seminary International in New York City. He holds a BA from Michigan State University, an MA in Jewish Studies from Siegal College (Cleveland, OH), and an MEd from The Ohio State University. He is currently a doctoral candidate in adult education from The Ohio State University. Described as a pioneer in the use of modern media as a tool for Judaic education, his areas of expertise include history, prayer, Jewish holidays, and Jewish philosophy.

The schedule for the remaining five sessions is as follows:

Life Experience in Westmoreland County -- James Paharik, PhD -- September 15 -- 6 p.m.

James Paharik, PhD, director of Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education and professor of Sociology, will moderate a panel of diverse Westmoreland County natives and/or long-time residents who will share their life experiences of living in a county that is 95 percent White with a rich cultural heritage that is adverse to change.

Good and Necessary Trouble -- Diane Hightower -- September 29 -- 10 a.m. - noon

Diane Hightower, president of the YWCA Westmoreland board of directors and director of academic support at Carnegie Mellon University, is the keynote speaker of this series. Hightower will discuss the Black Lives Matter Movement that started as a call to action for racial justice, prompting a national debate and causing a racial divide that we haven’t seen in the United States since Thurgood Marshall brought the landmark cased, Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka, to the Supreme Court in 1954.

Privilege 101 -- Sheila Confer, EdD -- October 13 -- 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

Sheila Confer, EdD, director of Pitt-Greensburg’s Academic Village, will explore Privilege 101 in this workshop. She will define privilege, both broadly and within the context of racial and social justice. The discussion will include recognizing and acknowledging one’s own privilege, leading to a conversation to help participants see how they can use their privilege in their everyday lives to lift others up and move us to a more equitable and just society.

How to be an Ally -- Carol Calloway -- October 27 -- 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

In this workshop, Carol Calloway, president of Carol Calloway Consulting, will examine the definition of an ally and identify what it takes to become an effective and powerful ally. A discussion regarding the benefits and challenges accompanying identifying and maintaining ally relationships will also be included. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and provide insight from their ally experiences to enrich the session’s experience.

Education: From the Hearts and Minds of our Youth -- Robert Gregerson, PhD -- November 10 -- 6 p.m.

Robert Gregerson, PhD, president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, will moderate a panel of students representing local universities. The students will discuss the future they envision in light of the call for social justice through the Black Live Matter Movement and other forums calling for change and the end of racism, as well as the concept of learning discrimination.

Publication Date

Thursday, August 20, 2020 - 17:45