Texas Tech University

Michael Benitez to Speak at Annual Celebrate Diversity Dinner

Amanda Castro-Crist

October 10, 2017


Benitez is a leading activist-scholar and educator who focuses on diversity issues in education.

Michael Benitez
Michael Benitez

The Texas Tech University Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DDEI) welcomes activist-scholar and educator Michael Benitez as the keynote speaker for the seventh annual fundraising Celebrate Diversity Dinner. The topic of his presentation is, “What Now? Cultivating and Sustaining Diversity in College Communities.”

Each fall, the division recognizes those within the Texas Tech and Lubbock communities who exemplify inclusive excellence. This year's dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 in the McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center.

“We are excited to have Dr. Benitez speak to us on the topic of the importance of diversity on college campuses,” said Elizabeth Sharp, interim vice president of DDEI. “Especially with Texas Tech's recent attainment of the enrollment goal for Hispanic Serving Institution status, which Dr. Benitez will address, we believe it is important for us to examine the role of diversity in bringing about positive change to our college communities and beyond.”

Four local leaders will receive recognition at the dinner. This year's recipient of the Sen. Robert L. Duncan Community Champion Award is Christy Martinez-Garcia, publisher and owner of Latino Lubbock monthly magazine. Inclusive Excellence Awards will be presented to three Texas Tech employees: Jodie Billingsley, assistant vice president of Human Resources; Gary Elbow, Honors College and geography professor and former associate vice provost; and Wendy Ross, professor of law.

Past speakers for the event include Edward James Olmos, Soledad O'Brien, John Quiñones, former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and actors Terrence Howard and Grace Gealy-Byers, who each star in “Empire.”

General admission tickets are $25, faculty and staff tickets are $20 and student tickets are $15. Tables of eight are available for $1,500 (Raider Sponsor) and $3,000 (Red and Black Sponsor). A Title Sponsor package of 24 tickets is available for $5,000. 

A new feature of the dinner this year is a silent auction, which will include, among other items, autographed sports memorabilia from Texas Tech coaches. All funds raised will go toward student scholarships. Those who cannot attend the event but still wish to make a donation may call 806-742-7025.

Registration for the dinner closes Oct. 13.

About Michael Benitez

Benitez serves as the Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, chief diversity officer and Title IX officer at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. He provides leadership over the coordination, implementation and assessment of operational and strategic goals related to diversity, strategic planning and institutional efforts for an equitable and inclusive campus climate.

For the past 20 years, Benitez has served in various positions in higher education. He served as director of Intercultural Development and the Black Cultural Center at Lafayette College, as adjunct faculty in the Graduate School of Leadership and Professional Advancement at Duquesne University, and as director of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership at Grinnell College.

While director of Diversity Initiatives and Social Justice at Dickinson College, Benitez established the Diversity Monologues, an annual program highlighting the creative talents of students while addressing diversity and social justice. He has spoken and led workshops at conferences and colleges across the U.S. and is known for his down-to-earth insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues, and his innovative practice and transformative work on equity and inclusion in higher education.

Benitez has been featured in educational documentaries and talk shows and has written book chapters and articles on student identity, hip hop culture, cultural centers, cultural and ethnic studies, institutional research, campus climates and supporting faculty of color. Issues he addresses include social justice education, intercultural development, race and ethnic relations, knowledge representation and production, youth and leadership development, student success and critical pedagogy.

While completing his bachelor and master's degrees at Pennsylvania State University, he worked with and helped revive and strengthen the university's College Assistance Migrant Program. He earned a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from Iowa State University School of Education, where he helped revamp the curriculum for Iowa State's Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE).

For more information, visit the event page.

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