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Annual Shepard Symposium April 6-9 at UW

March 31, 2011

Keynote speakers and discussions on current issues are part of the 15th annual Shepard Symposium on Social Justice April 6-9, at the University of Wyoming.

"CREATE: Activism Toward Social Justice" is the theme for this spring's symposium, an annual event at UW since 1997. The symposium has evolved into a major national conference that seeks to engage participants in discussion and analyses of strategies and actions that can eliminate social inequality.

Honoring the work of the Shepard family and the memory of their son, Matthew Shepard, a UW student and social activist, the symposium changed its name in 2002 and works as a living reminder of the need for information and dialogue about social justice concerns in American and beyond, organizers say.

Begun by two faculty in the College of Education, Omawale Akintunde and Margaret Cooney, the symposium, then called "The Symposium for the Eradication of Social Inequality," aimed at involving UW and local students in dialogue on issues related to social justice, particularly within the context of public education. The symposium has expanded its topics to include inequalities based on race/ethnicity, gender sexual orientation, disability and class.

Three educators will give keynote addresses and a performance group is among the symposium's highlights.

John Corvino, associate professor of philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., is the luncheon speaker from 11 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the Wyoming Union Ballroom. He also will hold a "fireside chat" from 2:45-4 p.m. in the lower fireside lounge in the Wyoming Union lower level.

Corvino has been speaking and writing on moral subjects since the early 1990s. He is the editor of "Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science and Culture of Homosexuality" and the writer of numerous articles and opinion pieces, which have appeared in regional and national print media.

An award-winning teacher and writer, he received  a 2004 Spirit of Detroit Award from the Detroit city council for his work on behalf of LGBT rights.

Cherrie Moraga, a playwright, poet and essayist, will talk from 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the UW College of Education auditorium. Her plays and publications have received national recognition, including a TCG Theatre Artist Residency Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for playwriting and two Fund for New American Plays Awards.  In 2007, she was awarded the United States Artist Rockefeller Fellowship for Literature.

She has served as an Artist in Residence in the Department of Drama at Stanford University the past 10 years and shares a joint appointment with Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Mary Cowhey is the other keynote speaker. She will discuss her award-winning work from 12:45-2 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in the Wyoming Union Ballroom. She also will give two workshops the same day at 9:35-10 a.m. in the Wyoming Union Family Room and from 10:55 a.m.-12:10 p.m. in the Big Horn Room, also in the Wyoming Union.

She has taught first and second grade in Northampton, Mass., for 12 years and is the author of "Black Ants and Buddhists: Thinking Critically and Teaching Differently in the Primary Grades." The book won the 2008 National Association for Multicultural Education Philip C. Chinn Multicultural Book Award and the 2007 Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Award. She was a community organizer for 14 years before becoming a teacher.

Cowhey has received numerous teaching awards, including the Milken National Educator Award, the Anti-Defamation League World of Difference Award, a National League of Women Voters Award and the University of Massachusetts Distinguished Alumni Award.

The Shepard Symposium entertainment will be provided by "A Slice of Rice, Frijoles and Greens," from 8:30-10 p.m. Thursday, April 7, in the UW Education auditorium.

"A Slice of Rice, Frijoles and Greens" is a multicultural extravaganza that brings together African American, Latina and Asian American artists for a program of spoken word, music, movement and song. The artists open windows into their own worlds through personal tales. Though each "slice" may be different, "rice, frijoles and greens" makes a statement that entertains as it enlightens, taking audiences beyond cultural borders.

For a complete agenda for the symposium, visit the Shepard Symposium website at

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