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Updated 10:00 AM February 19, 2007
 

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  Women of Color Task Force is 25
Former U.S. Civil Rights Commission chair
to address anniversary event

Law School graduate Mary Frances Berry, former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says efforts to achieve diversity could be difficult in coming days.

"The University of Michigan has made enormous progress over the last 25 years in achieving diversity but challenges lie ahead, and increased headwinds make further progress difficult," Berry says. She will deliver the keynote address for the Women of Color Task Force (WCTF) 25th Annual Career Conference March 2 at Rackham Auditorium, on "Whatever Happened to the Civil Rights Movement?"

Berry, who also holds a doctorate from the U-M Department of History and is the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, has received 32 honorary doctoral degrees and numerous awards, and is the author of seven books.

Organizers say 600 attendees—90 percent of whom are University employees from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses—are expected. The conference features 50 professional development workshops, a networking luncheon and a vendor exhibit area.

Janice Reuben, program coordinator for the WCTF and the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), says new workshop offerings at the conference this year include: Making the U-M Careers Web Site Work for You, Leading from the Middle and Managing Change, Diversity Awareness: Sexual Orientation/Gender Expression in the Workplace, and Strategies for Taking Standardized Tests.

"Overall, the WCTF Conference is high quality," says Grace Wu, a grants and contracts administrator and WCTF executive team member. "It is well constructed and well attended. It covers wide topics from education and career choice to physical and mental health, so no matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from this conference."

Initially, the WCTF, formerly known as the Minority Women's Task Force, was created as a staff support organization. "It was dedicated to providing career development and training opportunities for minority women employed at the University who were not receiving educational and leadership opportunities through regular departmental channels," Reuben says.

The task force, which had predominantly been comprised of African American women, experienced a major shift in its recruitment focus in the mid-1980s when it actively began targeting Latina, Asian, Native American and white women for membership. In 2002, the WCTF became an administrative unit of CEW, thanks to the efforts of Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, who at the time was chief human relations officer for the U-M Health System, in collaboration with Carol Hollenshead, CEW director.

The mission of WCTF has not changed over the past 25 years but the scope of its programs has expanded, says Reuben, who came to U-M in 2003. "Each year, the programmatic focus has been to cultivate a skilled and valued workforce by supporting the efforts of employees to excel and succeed at the University of Michigan," she says. "Through its programs—the annual career conference, the Woman of the Year awards, a mentoring project, and staff development workshops—the task force provides opportunities for professional and personal development for University personnel and the local community, and also recognizes the outstanding contributions of campus women leaders who serve as positive role models by educating and empowering all employees.

"Our members who have been at the U-M for more 10 years and served on the task force for more than five years will testify about the positive impact the organization has had on their career advancement at the University," Reuben adds.

The WCTF receives support from the Office of the Senior Vice Provost, the HR/Affirmative Action Office, the U-M Health System Human Resources Office and CEW.

For information on registration, call (734) 998-7080 or go to www.umich.edu/~cew/faculty-staff/wctf.htm.

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