Webster University hosts seventh annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference


Two-time Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez was the keynote speaker of the seventh annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion conference.

Webster hosted the seventh Annual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Conference on March 1 and 2. There were many speakers scheduled for this year including Webster students, local T.V. newscasters and keynote speaker Laurie Hernandez, who is a two-time Olympic medalist.

One thing Hernandez spoke on during the conference was mental health and the struggles she went through to get to where she is now. She highlighted the best piece of advice she remembers receiving during the conference.

“Try being your favorite self rather than your best self,” Hernandez said.

At 21 years old, Hernandez has won a gold and silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics,  has written two books and was the youngest person to win the Mirrorball Trophy on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Laurie Hernandez is the keynote speaker of the seventh annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference. Photo by Vanessa Jones.

“It [felt] pretty good, you know,” Hernandez said. “It’s tough because age is not something you can control but it also feels nice that the cards played in my favor and I also got the perfect partner.”.

She mentioned she wants to go to college and has already started applying. She enjoys screenwriting and acting because she said it is a good way to let her emotions go and enjoys doing it.

She openly spoke about mental health and gave real life experiences about her struggles. She mentioned crying as an outlet and taking time to be alone so she isn’t “go, go, go”.

Hernandez also mentioned how burnout isn’t necessary to realize you are doing too much. Another point she touched on was the meaning and importance of boundaries.

“A boundary is a bridge,” Hernandez said. “You can either walk it or burn it.”

Another point she touched on was competition.

“When you stop giving energy to your competitors, you give more energy for yourself,” Hernandez said.

Although there was some competition between her and her teammates, Hernandez said they formed a bond. She shared a story about how fellow olympian Aly Raisman was her first guest at her new place in Brooklyn.

On more of a personal note Hernandez mentioned ways that help her.

“If you can get into therapy, that’s really what helped me,” Hernandez said. “Because sometimes there comes a point where it is very helpful to journal and talk to friends, but to whatever degree a professional of course will always be best, and you have someone to guide and you have someone to help understand what progress looks like.”

Keynote Speaker Laurie Hernandez closes the first day of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference. Photo by Vanessa Jones.

Kendra Holmes was another health-related speaker from the conference. Holmes got promoted on March 1 to the CEO of Affinia Healthcare. She spoke about the lack of opportunities for minorities and the healthcare they receive.

“A good person cares for their children,” Holmes said. “A great person cares for all children. That is what healthcare should be.”

According to Holmes, Black Americans make up 14% of the country and yet there is not equal opportunity in healthcare overall. She also mentioned the difference between healthcare and quality healthcare. There aren’t as many opportunities for African Americans to get quality healthcare.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion, I believe – at the end of the day – means a level playing field,” Hernandez said.

Garrett Dohlke, a junior at Webster, talked about how DEI means everybody needs representation. He said a big part of doing so is listening to voices of minorities and those who are oppressed.

“As a white man, I recognize that my role can also be to listen and learn from these conversations,” Dohlke said. “In order to learn about diversity, you have to live it. Find ways to diversify your everyday life. Search for perspectives and life experiences that are different from yours. Diversity really isn’t a subject you can read a book on, you have to actually practice it.”

With another day ahead, there are still tickets. Tickets can be found on  https://events.bizzabo.com/380073.

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Brian Rubin
Staff Writer | + posts