On March 4, 2014, Chapman University’s College of Educational Studies hosted a Ph.D. Research and Social Justice Symposium that was open to the Chapman Community. The college invited Michael Benitez, Jr. to share his dissertation research along with
a discussion that illustrated the importance of the role of conviction and diversity leadership in the 21st Century America. Michael Benitez, Jr. is a nationally known social justice educator and scholar-activist with extensive experience in education and campus diversity issues. He has occupied multiple roles (e.g., academic affairs, student affairs, diversity and inclusion, and teaching) within higher education for the past fifteen years. He is known for his down-to-earth, insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues. Benitez has authored numerous book chapters and articles on topics of identity, cultural centers, ethnic studies, pedagogy, and hip hop culture.
The symposium was split into two events: from 4:30-6:30pm, Benitez talked about his dissertation research on Latina/o cultural and identity politics in higher education. He also facilitated a dialogue that situated (and reminded) the audience of the reasons why they are engaged in the research and/or social justice work that they are currently involved with. From 7:00-9:00pm, Benitez discussed the importance of diversity, conviction, and social justice leadership. In his presentation, Benitez examined and problematized the ways in which the culture and ideas of dominant discourse show up in and inform how teaching, learning, and practice in diversity and inclusion work in education are applied and engaged. He reflected the challenges and benefits of diversity leadership along with leading the audience to envision critical politicized pedagogy and praxis within their own roles and practices.