News Release

College of Education and Human Development sponsors "Conversations on Diversity"

Contact: Christina Chapple


Almidio Aquino and team member gather stories from Paraguayan natives


CONVERSATIONS ON DIVERSITY – Almidio Aquino (shown at center) will be the keynote speaker for “Conversations on Diversity,” a new lecture series sponsored by Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Education and Human Development. Aquino has been involved for three decades in collecting oral histories and stories of the Paraguayan Ava Guarani people, whose culture and history is endangered. He will discuss his experiences with native Paraguayan cultures at noon and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14, in the Cate Teacher Education Center Kiva. The lecture is free to the campus and community.


       HAMMOND – Diversity is the inaugural topic of an annual lecture series, “Conversations,” being launched by Southeastern Louisiana University’s College of Education and Human Development.

       The topic will be explored through five lectures presented by Southeastern faculty and guest speakers beginning Feb. 13, said Dean Diane Allen.

       “This is a wonderful opportunity for our students, who are faced with a diverse population in their classrooms, to expand their understanding of other cultures,” said Allen. “We think that diversity is a fitting topic for our first ‘coversation’ since February is Black History Month. By broadening our students’ horizons, we are giving them the knowledge and awareness they will need as teachers to expand the horizons of their own students.”

       Allen said all Conversation on Diversity lectures will take place in the Cate Teacher Education Kiva. Each of the free lectures, which are open to the public, will be presented twice to accommodate the schedules of students, area educators and community members.

       Allen said education students from Xavier University also plan attend the lecture series, accompanied by Deborah Bordelon, chair of the New Orleans university’s division of education.

       The keynote speaker for “Conversations on Diversity” will be Paraguayan educator Almidio Aquino, who will discuss his experiences with native cultures in his homeland at noon and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

       Aquino is director of Proyecto Kuatiañe'e (Language Notebooks Project), a program that aims to maintain the Ava Guaraní language and culture in Paraguay. His son-in-law, James D. Kirylo, an assistant professor in Southeastern’s Department of Teaching and Learning, explained that the Guaraní were a people whose language for several centuries formed the cultural foundation of Paraguay.

       “The Guaraní’s numbers have significantly decreased, particularly the Ava Guaraní group, who are in real danger of losing their culture and language,” Kirylo said. He said Aquino and his team have been working for 30 years to preserve the language and culture by recording oral histories and integrating the stories into schools.

       “Proyecto Kuatiane’e is having a meaningful impact on preserving the language and culture,” Kirylo said. “Among other material, 17 books have been published. These are the first books available for Ava Guaraní children, celebrating their unique culture and language.”

       The lecture series will begin on Feb. 13 with “The Global Village,” a presentation at noon and 5 p.m. by Frederick Dembowski, Southeastern’s Hibernia Endowed Professor and head of the Department of Educational Leadership and Technology.

       From 1988-90, Dembowski was part of a $25 million, five year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) project to establish a university in Mogadishu, Somalia. A nationally recognized leader in the field of educational leadership, Dembowski will discuss how the experience, which was cut short by the country’s disintegration into lawlessness and turmoil, affected him personally and professionally. He said he also plans to “shrink the world’s population to a village of 100 people” to illustrate the need for Americans to think globally.

       On Feb. 15 at noon and Feb. 16 at 5 p.m., Celina Echols, associate professor of educational psychology at Southeastern, will speak on “Colorism: A Long Way From Colorblind.” Echols, whose specialties include social equality, diversity, and the psychology of race, will use references such as Marita Golden’s book, “Don't Play in the Sun: One Woman's Journey Through the Color Complex,” to stress to future teachers how skin color-based perceptions and discrimination among people of color lower students’ self-esteem.

       Allen said “Conversations on Diversity” will continue during the spring semester with a lecture on gender issues on by Millie Naquin, associate professor of kinesiology and health studies, on March 15-16, and “Human Diversity and Populations at Risk” by Bonnie Ahn, assistant professor of social work, on April 12-13.

       For additional information on “Conversations on Diversity,” contact the College of Education and Human Development, 985-549-2218

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