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ODU to Host Science Educators for Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice (SEEDS) Conference

By Joe Garvey

Old Dominion University will host the Science Educators for Equity, Diversity, and Social Justice (SEEDS) biannual international conference Oct. 11 to 14 at the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies.

The conference will be sponsored by the ODU President's Task Force on Inclusive Excellence along with the American Evolution, which is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, along with other events in Virginia.

During the four-day conference, titled "Reclaiming the Profession: Science Teaching and Science Teacher Education as Social Justice," participants will collaborate with locally and nationally recognized researchers, scholars and educators who are interested in fostering a collective responsibility for creating a just and equitable society with transformative action through science.

Janice Underwood, Virginia's first diversity officer and former director of diversity initiatives at ODU, said it is fitting to tie the SEEDS conference to the 400th anniversary. The American institution of slavery, she said, helps explain why relatively few people of color pursue STEM fields.

"Science was actually used to justify that African slaves were not fully human, and therefore didn't need to be treated humanely," she said. "Therefore, it was reasonable to some to deduce that those of African descent were not capable of intellectual thought, which is why the dominant culture prevented enslaved Africans and their descendants from contributing to the sciences."

She said SEEDS is committed to addressing that.

"It's an organization that really talks about the decolonization of STEM education and STEM fields," she said. "We're amplifying the voices of those scholars, public school educators, nationally recognized professors and change agents from across the country who are doing research in this area. Many of them will be presenting their research and teaching frameworks throughout the weekend."

The conference will open with a town hall and reception in the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies' multipurpose room at 5 p.m. Oct. 11. The theme will be "How to Become an Activist in Your Own Backyard."

Chadra Pittman, the founder and executive director of The Sankofa Projects, which is centered on preserving the intellectual, cultural and spiritual legacies of the African diaspora, will be the main speaker. She will discuss "400 Years Later: Dispelling the Myth of the Hierarchy of Humanity."

Pittman will also be the featured speaker at the closing event, Indigenous Peoples Day Commemoration, on Oct. 14 at 10 a.m., also in the multipurpose room. She will talk about thinking critically about cultural hegemony, the lingering effects of injustice, and how society can re-establish equity through social justice initiatives.

The complete schedule for the conference is available at this link.

Conference registration is open to students, faculty, staff and community members.

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