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College hosts first-ever Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference

UM System President Mun Choi (far left) and MU Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa (far right) pose with the organizers of the College's first Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference.

UM System President Mun Choi (far left) and MU Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa (far right) pose with the organizers of the College’s first Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference.

A total of 150 students, faculty, staff and company representatives registered to attend the first Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference on Oct. 6 and 7 at Lafferre Hall on the University of Missouri Campus.

The inaugural event was organized by multiple students affiliated with the MU College of Engineering’s various diversity organizations and its Office of Diversity and Outreach Initiatives to recognize diversity organizations, diverse students and their achievements throughout the year while promoting the College’s core values of integrity, excellence and collaboration.

The day contained multiple professional development workshops, diversity education workshops, poster presentations, career networking opportunities with various companies, keynote speakers — UM System President Mun Choi and Dean Elizabeth Loboa among them — and a banquet.

“I think it’s really cool that we can bring all the different diversity organizations as well as everybody at the College together to have something like this,” said Janae Bradley, a graduate student in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering and one of the event’s organizers.

The idea for the conference came about in January, when leaders of the College’s various diversity organizations came together to discuss having a local conference that not only provided professional development and networking opportunities, but also a celebration of diversity, both of culture and of thought, in the College of Engineering.

Tojan Rahhal, the director of the College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said that an event such as this was a goal of hers upon taking the job earlier this year, and she was thrilled to find out a group of students already had plans underway.

“I had an engineering diversity conference on [my list of goals],” Rahhal said. “We were on the same page, and we said, ‘Let’s make it happen.’.”

The biggest impetus behind the inaugural DEPC was the opportunity to share the enriching experience the organizers got out of their organizations’ individual national conferences. Bringing a similarly-styled event to Columbia allowed the organizers to share that with other students without the attendees having to incur costs.

“Instead of you traveling to a conference, paying hundreds of dollars to get there and spend time there, it’s coming to you, right here in Mid Missouri,” IMSE grad student and event organizer Emma Schweiss said.

The organizers want the DEPC to continue on as an annual event and hope that the success of the initial conference will spark interest in the next crop of student organizers.

“We want this to be an annual thing, and it will,” Schweiss said. “It’ll be a continuous thing for years to come. It’ll be exciting to get to see everyone get excited for it and want to be on the planning committee for next year.”

After the conference, the group announced Oct. 6, 2018, as the date for the next Diverse Engineering Professionals Conference.