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Friday Forum: The Power of Belonging

January 28, 2022 @ 1:00 pm 3:00 pm MST

Registration is now closed! We hope you’ll continue to join us at the next Friday Forum on February 25.

The Power of Belonging

“Belonging” might be the new buzzword in higher education, but the need to belong is crucial in this transitional moment in higher education. More students with marginalized identities, be it race, gender, neurodiversity, or ability, are entering institutions of higher education and our programs, departments, culture must reflect student needs in order for them to thrive and achieve post-graduation success.    

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belongingness becomes a basic human need once physiological needs and safety are met. However, until the need to belong is met, needs further up the hierarchy, such as self-esteem, self-actualization, creativity, and innovation cannot be achieved (Maslow, 1954). Within the context of higher education we know, “students who do not feel like they belong rarely stay in college” (Strayhorn, 2019, p. 2). Fulfilling basic needs, including belonging, can be met through equity — addressing the unique needs of students across identities and experiences to ensure belonging is achieved and higher-order needs can thrive.  

Main Panel Speakers

Laila El Metoui

Laïla El-Métoui
Equity Educator, lemEducation

Laïla is a UK-based Equity Educator, listed in the Top 100 Pride Power List 2021. She is the Stonewall Lesbian Role Model of the Year (2020) and has been nominated twice for DIVA Magazine’s Unsung Hero Award and also as a Positive Role Model at the National Diversity Awards.
She is the founder of two bi-yearly global virtual conferences Educating Out Racism and Pride in Education.
She also founded and chairs Proud London Councils and UK Queer Arabs. Her published works include:
Rainbow Pilgrims: The Rites and Passages of LGBTQI + Migrants in Britain; Twilight People: Stories of Faith and Gender Beyond the Binary and Haringey Vanguard Learning Resources.

She has been published in academic journals, the press and contributed to the national British Council ESOL Nexus Research Awards Exploring LGBT Lives and Issues in Adult ESOL

Lisa M. Nunn

Lisa M. Nunn, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Sociology
Director of the Center for Educational Excellence
University of San Diego

Dr. Nunn earned a BA in English Literature and Theater from Whittier College and a Masters and PhD in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently a Professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego where she is also the Director of the Center for Educational Excellence. She is a cultural sociologist and an organizations scholar and the author of three books and multiple chapters and articles on students’ experiences; student’s ideas about success; and students’ sense of belonging. Her most recent book came out in 2020: “College Belonging: How First-Year and First-Generation Stuents Navigate Campus Life.” And her 2019 book, “33 Simple Strategies for Faculty: A Week-by-Week Resource for Teaching First-Year and First-Generation Students,” won the Scholarly Contributions to Teaching and Learning Award from the American Sociological Association.

Nelson Soto

Nelson E. Soto, Ph.D.
Provost and Vice President Academic Affairs
Union Institute & University

Dr. Nelson Soto is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Union Institute & University headquartered in Walnut Hills. He holds a Ph.D. in educational policy studies from Indiana University, Bloomington, a master’s in education and a bachelor of arts in business from the University of Cincinnati. As provost at Union, he is in the unique position to advance the university’s mission as a vehicle for change in the community through diversity and education. He provides leadership in engaging and empowering adult learners in the larger society in which they live and work, building a mutually beneficial, expansive and collaborative community that lives beyond the classroom.

Dr. Soto has focused his career on enabling and encouraging change and access. Dr. Soto is deeply committed to ensuring that all individuals, no matter their background or circumstances, have access to higher education and opportunities to improve their own lives and those of their families. In his leadership role at Union Institute &University, he brings the mission and vision to life: to engage, enlighten and empower each adult in a lifetime of learning and service.

Martell L. Teasley

Martell L. Teasley, Ph.D.
Interim Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, University of Utah

Martell L. Teasley is Interim Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost. Appointed dean of the College of Social Work in 2017, Martell is in his second terms as president of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work. Martell was Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Work in the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio from 2012 until 2017. As the lead investigator on the Social Work profession’s Grand Challenge to Eliminate Racism, his major areas of research interests are African American adolescent development, school social work practice, and diversity in social work education. He is the former Chair of the Social Work and Disaster Recovery Program at Florida State University College of Social Work. He served in the U.S. Army from 10 years and participated in the First Persian Gulf War as a Licensed Practical Nurse. His education includes a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina in 1994. He received a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia in 1996, and his doctorate in Social Work in 2002 from Howard University, located in Washington, DC.

Breakout Session Facilitators

Luna Banuri

Luna Banuri
Executive Director
Utah Muslim Civic League

Breakout: The Power of Belonging in the Community

Luna Banuri is co-founder and Executive Director of the Utah Muslim Civic League, which she helped establish as a network to amplify Muslim voices across the state in public policy and understanding. Utah Muslim Civic League’s mission is to educate and empower citizens to be civically engaged in political and non political action. She relocated to Salt Lake City from Chicago and quickly became involved in the local community by the virtue of her global experiences and her involvement in her children’s’ schools. She and a group of Muslim Utahns launched the UMCL in 2018 to educate and empower Muslim Utahns. Today, UMCL advocates for social justice reform through public policies that celebrate diversity and prioritize the inclusion of all Utahns into civic life and community building. Since the pandemic began, they have supporting COVID testing and vaccinations in the broader Muslim Community and supporting the newly arrived Afghans currently.

Daniel Cairo

Daniel K. Cairo, PhD
Special Assistant to the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion – Strategy and Operations
Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion; University of Utah

Breakout: The Power of Belonging at the U

Dr. Daniel K. Cairo (he/him/el) brings over 10 years of experience in leading programs that support diversity, equity, and inclusion. As an educator and organizational leader, he has developed successful equity and inclusion programs at multiple institutions.

Walter Franco

Walter Franco
Principal, Victus Advisors
University of Utah Latinx Alumni Community

Breakout: The Power of Belonging in the Workplace

Walter Franco is a principal at Victus Advisors, an international boutique sports consulting firm based out of Park City. He earned an M.B.A. with a focus on Sports Business from San Diego State University, and a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Utah along with a Minor in Latin American Studies. Walter is also involved in the community serving as the President of Educational Opportunities for Utah’s Children (a non-profit that raises scholarship funds for DACA students), a mentor for various University of Utah programs, and as chair of the Latinx Alumni Community at the University of Utah.


Bryan Hubain
Associate Vice President for Student Development & Inclusion

Breakout: I am U Thriving

Dr. Hubain is a member of the Student Affairs Leadership Team and provides supervisory oversight to the departments of Basic Needs Center, Career & Professional Development Center, Financial Wellness Center, LGBT Resource Center, TRIO, Veterans Support Center, and Women’s Resource Center. Dr. Hubain also serves on various University committees.

James Jackson III

James Jackson III
Executive Director, Utah Black Chamber
University of Utah Black Alumni Community

Breakout: The Power of Belonging in the Workplace

James Jackson, III serves as the Supplier Diversity Program Manager as Zions Bancorporation, where he is responsible for building relationships with capable diverse suppliers who can provide goods and services across the enterprise. Mr. Jackson has worked in various areas of the financial industry for almost 20 years, and found his passion serving and building his community. In conjunction with his role at the bank, Mr. Jackson serves on several boards of directors, and is the founder of the Utah Black Chamber. Since its inception in 2009, the Chamber has grown to not only serve black-owned small businesses in Utah but has become the premier organization connecting and engaging Utah’s Black community and building bridges for inclusion. From the Chamber, James started or helped start several other programs to elevate Utah’s diverse community, including Living Color Utah and the Utah Diversity Career Fair.

Gabi Sanchez-Jones

Gabi Sanchez-Jones, MBA
Manager, Alumni Clubs and Diverse Communities Engagement
University of Utah

Breakout: The Power of Belonging in the Workplace

Gabi Sanchez-Jones serves as the Manager of Alumni Clubs and Diverse Communities Engagement at the University of Utah Office of Alumni Relations, where she works to develop meaningful engagement opportunities for diverse alumni. Gabi earned a B.A. in International Business from Westminster College and an MBA from the University of Utah. She serves on the Board of Directors of Comunidades Unidads, and is a member of the State of Utah’s MLK Human Right’s Commission.

Tricia Sugiyama

Tricia Sugiyama
Director, Center for Equity & Student Belonging

Breakout: The Power of Belonging at the U

Tricia Sugiyama (she/her) serves as the director for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion’s Center for Equity & Student Belonging at the University of Utah. She joined CESB in 2006 and she spent eight years working as the First-Year Experience Program Director, Academic Advisor, and Asian American Programs Coordinator.  Prior to working at the University of Utah she spent five years at the State Office of Asian Affairs and started her own business.  Tricia is a fourth-generation Utahn, a proud fur-baby mother of two and is passionate about working with students.

Friday Forums on Racism in Higher Education

Friday Forums is a commitment to the state and region in elevating national conversations and showcasing models of disrupting complicit racism. Each session welcomes national thought leaders to lead discussions and provide opportunities for participants to share ideas on actionable items towards a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus.


Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

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