NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Two hundred and seventy people are signed up to attend Saturday's diversity conference sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University.
That's more than what was expected.
What would lead someone to devote their Saturday to learning about diversity? Could it be the free educational hours offered to social workers? Perhaps, but Dr. Osaro Airen wants to think the interest goes much deeper.
"I mean really understanding the beauty in diversity," Airen said. "Knowing that it's one of the most beautiful things in the world."
Yet a multicultural caucus knows difference is difficult to accept, so members selected a theme designed to spark conversation.
"The theme of the conference is 'Hidden Faces," Airen said. "And we were very purposeful with that that theme because we want people to talk about topics that we don't normally talk about."
SFA student Alisha Hall will attend a talk on the transgender experience.
"I think a lot of people aren't really, I don't want to say scared to be themselves, but I think it's a good thing to kinda get that out there so people can be who they are," Hall said.
Diversity discussion may also be sparked by recent racial violence.
"What's gone on has really made people aware," Airen said. "And my hope is that's helping people understand that we need to talk about it."
Sociology student Krysten Blackshear wants the conference to shed insight and knowledge on tolerance.
"And actually giving facts and not opinions and myths and things like that," Blackshear said.
However, intolerance makes headlines. On Friday, Airen watched coverage of a protester interrupting a peaceful Muslim Day celebration at the state Capitol.
"Islam will never dominate the United States, and by the grace of God, will not dominate Texas," the protester said in the video.
Airen said videos that one bring more purpose to the conference planned for Saturday.
"It shows the importance of us just talking and what we were talking about respecting each other's differences," Airen said.
Early registration was closed for tomorrow's diversity conference as early as Monday. However, anyone can still attend the free presentations, but know lunch is on your own and informational bags are for early registrars only.
Welcoming ceremonies begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, and five sessions will follow. A roundtable debriefing will bring the conference to a close.