Juan Guzman
UNK Office of Multicultural Affairs director, 308.865.8127

“Remembering the Past, Living the Present, Preparing for the Future” is the theme of the fifth annual Cultural Unity Conference set for Friday, March 30, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Open to all high school students, but specifically tailored to underrepresented minorities, the conference begins at 9 a.m. in the Nebraskan Student Union. Students from 40 high schools have been invited to the event, and more than 375 have registered from communities ranging from Scottsbluff to Omaha.

Juan Guzman, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, said the number of participants registered for the conference is already well above last year’s numbers. He said he was impressed with the large number of students from the Lincoln area, approximately 100 students, since Lincoln is a new recruiting area for the conference.

Guzman said the purpose of the Cultural Unity Conference is to promote cultural diversity in higher education. He said that due to the underrepresentation of minorities in colleges across the country, the student organizations within the Office of Multicultural Affairs organized the conference to expand cultural diversity on the UNK campus.

“Through a series of workshops, meetings and discussions, we hope to recruit and inspire high school students from underrepresented groups to consider and commit to a college or university-level education. We hope to convince these students that the obstacles to a college education can be overcome,” Guzman said.

Students will choose which of six different workshops they wish to attend during the conference. The first workshop is “Immigration Issues,” which have an impact on opportunities for admission, scholarships and financial aid offered at UNK. 

Guzman said immigration reform will be a main topic of the conference, as well as how immigrants can find means to finance their college education.

The second workshop is “Who Do You Think I Am?,” which focuses on racism, discrimination and stereotyping. The third workshop, “Explore Your Options,” covers alternatives to a four-year education, including military service and community college. “Cultural Fair” is broad look at world cultures. The “Need Money for College?” workshop is specifically about financial aid and other means to raise the necessary funds for college. The final workshop, “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous,” invites student leaders of the UNK community to talk with the conference attendees about college life.

Chancellor Doug Kristensen and University of Nebraska President James Milliken will address the group after lunch. In addition, members of the Board of Regents, will be present at the conference and available to talk to students.

Two keynote speakers will give presentations to the entire group. The first is Nancy Montanez-Johner, under secretary for Food and Nutrition Consumer Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who will speak at 1:30 p.m. about the need of women to be college-educated and become involved in government.

Montanez-Johner serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Commodity Credit Corporation, and she was appointed by former Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to serve as director of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in March 2004.

A UNK social work graduate, Montanez-Johner served as the HHS Western Service Area CEO in Gering from 2002-2003, and from 1999-2002, she was a Service Area Administrator for HHS in Lexington. Before that she worked in the Professional Partner Program at Region III Behavioral Health Services in Kearney from 1995-1999.

The second keynote speaker, Aaron Davis, is the seminar leader for the University of Nebraska’s Corporate Manager Certification program. Davis, who is the president of Aaron Davis Presentations, Inc., will speak at 7 p.m.

Davis gives presentations across the country to individuals wishing to improve their personal and professional lives. Author of three books, including “10 Minute Truths,” and a member of the National Speakers Association, Davis has worked with various sectors including government, agriculture, medical, mortgage, sales, insurance, banking and education, Davis is also a former Husker football player and was a member of the 1994 national championship team.