RISE and Shine: Diversity conference set for April

The University of Houston-Victoria invites area college and high school students to its upcoming diversity and inclusion conference focusing on the importance of supporting underrepresented groups on campus and in society at large.

UHV’s second annual Race, Inclusion and Social Equity Diversity Conference, also known as RISE, will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 2 in UHV University North, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The conference is hosted by UHV Student Life and is open to students from the University of Houston System, Victoria College and area high schools. Students also can attend the conference virtually.

Freddie Cantu

“We hope that the students and everyone who attends the conference will learn something they didn't know before, make new connections and become more aware of different identities,” said Freddie Cantu, UHV assistant director of diversity and inclusion.

Improvement in these areas enhances students’ ability to engage and work with diverse populations, he said. In addition to its focus on ethnic and racial diversity, the event will cover gender and sexual identity issues and aims to create supportive and affirming spaces for LGBTQ and other individuals to thrive.

“We hope attendees will gain insight into how to create more supportive surroundings for all individuals,” Cantu said.

This year’s keynote speaker is Brian Roberson, principal of KIPP Northeast College Preparatory, a high school in Houston. In his keynote, “Y’all Means All: Creating Supportive Spaces and Places for Authentic Representation of Self,” Roberson will share his personal story and how his experiences have inspired him to encourage individuals of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations to feel comfortable being themselves.

In addition to Roberson’s presentation, students will be able to attend three breakout sessions and choose from three different session topics for each timeslot. There also will be a panel discussion event in the afternoon led by four student leaders and moderated by the president of the Student Government Association. In the student panel event and the breakout sessions, time will be reserved toward the end for attendees to ask questions.

Jaira Jenkins

“Getting guest speakers to give their input on certain diversity topics is the best part because students are able to ask questions and get a different outlook and better perspective from someone with experience,” said Jaira Jenkins, a junior and communications design major who is president of the Multicultural Advisory Council.

She is among last year’s attendees who plans to attend this year.

“It was so educational,” she said. “I really loved it, and other people loved it. Overall, it was a success, and that’s why we want to make it a tradition.”

The conference is free to attend, and its format will be similar to last year’s, with one major difference.

“The biggest thing is that it is going to be face-to-face, whereas our first one was virtual,” Cantu said. “Of course, we have students online and at our Katy instructional site, so some of the breakout sessions will be hybrid – both in person and virtual – so that those students can participate, too.”

Participants who attend the event in person will receive a free lunch and conference swag.

Registration is open until 5 p.m. March 30. To register and see the event schedule, visit Topics for each breakout session will be posted closer to the event date. For more information about the conference, contact Cantu at 361-485-4474 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.