The University of Louisiana at Lafayette hosted the second annual For Our Future Conference from Feb. 13 to 15.
The conference gathered faculty and staff from all nine of the universities within the University of Louisiana system and offered an opportunity for collaboration to form new strategies for the upcoming year in higher education. This year’s keynote speaker was NCAA Executive Vice President of Inclusion and Human Resources Katrice Albert.
The conference focused on the UL System’s six aspirations laid out in its strategic framework: Academic success, student success and educational attainment, economic development, research and innovation and financial stewardship and accountability.
The majority of the conference’s activities — which included peer-to-peer collaboration sessions, speeches and classes — took place in the Student Union.
“The University is pleased to host the event,” said UL Lafayette President Joseph Savoie, Ph.D. “It is a product of a lot of hard work by the staff and the system office here on campus and each of our nine member institutions. Higher education in Louisiana today faces a host of challenges, but as members of the UL System, we find ourselves in the enviable position of confronting these issues from a position of strength.”
Albert’s speech highlighted the need for continued emphasis on diversity when creating opportunities for higher education. She spoke toward overcoming the influence of “-isms” on higher education, advocating for all to have equal opportunity regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or class.
Throughout her speech, Albert consistently referenced a quote from popular African American feminist, author and social activist Bell Hooks, whom Albert called a “force of nature.”
“A generous heart is always open, always ready to receive our going and our coming,” Hooks said. “This is the most precious gift true love offers, the experience of knowing that we belong. There can be no love without justice.”
Albert also used metaphors based on pop culture and sports to help illustrate her points, referencing the OWN Network show “Queen Sugar,” the Rooney Rule in the NFL and the story for which Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was given his first NFL job.
Each reference was about emphasizing the importance of providing opportunity to those who need it and “being a waymaker.” Albert called on the faculty and staff in the room to understand their own vulnerabilities, “be humble” and know that they don’t always understand the struggles of those they come in contact with.
“To be a courageous leader, you’ve got to be able to rumble with vulnerability,” Albert said. “You’ve got to be humble and understand that you don’t know everybody’s lived experiences. It’s a gift that others are willing to share (with you) if you have a generous heart and open up.”
Beyond the keynote speaker, Loida Lewis, widow of former TLC Beatrice founder and CEO Reginald Lewis, shared the story of her late husband to attendees.
Lewis is the current Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice, LLC, the family investment firm. She is also a lawyer and was the first Filipino woman to pass the New York bar without attending law school in the U.S.
Plans for the next For Our Future Conference have not yet been detailed.