NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Created with the combined goals of spreading an understanding of diversity and connecting university departments and programs, approximately 300 people have signed up to attend the free second annual Stephen F. Austin State University Office of Multicultural Affair's Diversity Conference.

The brainchild of OMA director Dr. Osaro Airen, the upcoming conference will fittingly serve as Airen's last program in his position. He recently accepted a job in Dallas.

"It's been an honor to bring this to the East Texas community," Airen said. "We had people attend from Dallas last year. This year, we have people coming from Lamar University in Beaumont. The goal of diversity and word of the conference is being spread and that lets me know the work I've done has really had an impact. And it's a great way for me to end my time here at SFA."

The conference's theme is "Hidden Faces." Its goal is to represent the many faces of diversity that should be acknowledged, valued and embraced but are often invisible, ignored and disregarded.

"We are so divided both as people and through our academic disciplines," Airen said. "We have people doing diversity-related research on campus, but they're in different colleges and rarely get the chance to connect."

A separate but important perk is the opportunity for area social workers to receive six hours of continuing education credits free of charge, he added, saving front-line workers up to $200.

SFA faculty and staff members heavily comprise the 18 presentations. They are joined by professionals from across the region and will present in three conference blocks. Among the presenters are faculty members from SFA's human services, psychology, elementary education, forestry and biology departments, among others, as well as representatives from the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit and a Tyler Junior College professor of philosophy and religion.

Additionally, SFA doctoral students will present their diversity-related research, and additional students will showcase their musical and oratory talents. Three performances will take place during lunch, including a piece by the SFA School of Music opera program, a poetry reading and a performance by the Latin Lumberjacks.

"When you talk about diversity, you want to bring people together from different disciplines, groups, cultures, races and ethnicities," Airen said. "A conference with a focus on diversity-related work allows a broad representation of different worlds and allows those worlds to connect in one location."

The second annual OMA Diversity Conference will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in the Baker Pattillo Student Center. The conference is free and registration includes a three-course lunch, T-shirt for the first 75 SFA students with ID and six continuing education units for social workers. Same-day registration is available, however lunch will not be provided.

For information or to register, visit the OMA conference's website,