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Abby Ferber  

Director of the Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity & Inclusion; Professor at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Abby L. Ferber is the director of the Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. She is also the director of The Knapsack Institute: Transforming Teaching and Learning and the Graduate Certificate in Diversity, Social Justice, and Inclusion. She is a Professor of Sociology and Women’s and Ethnic Studies and co-founded and edits the journal "Understanding and Dismantling Privilege."

In addition to dozens of articles and book chapters, for both academic and general public audiences, Ferber is the author of "White Man Falling: Race, Gender and White Supremacy" and was the editor of "Home Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism."

She co-authored the American Sociological Associations' "Hate Crime in America: What Do We Know?" and "Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out." She is also the co-author of the textbook "The Matrix of Race: Social Construction, Intersectionality, and Inequality." She co-edited "Privilege: A Reader" and "The New Basics: Sex, Gender, and Sexuality," and "The Matrix Reader: Examining the Dynamics of Privilege and Oppression."

Ferber received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Oregon and her B.S. from American University. She is the recipient of numerous awards and is a sought-after public speaker, workshop, and training facilitator. She has worked with organizations including the Air Force Academy, Avery Dennison, Colorado Children’s Chorale, Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association, The Denver Foundation, UCCS Police Department, the USA Swimming National Olympic Organization, and Youth Celebrate Diversity, as well as many colleges and universities.


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Speech Topics

Becoming More Inclusive Educators

This workshop will present basic theory and simple changes educators can make to create a more inclusive learning environment in their classrooms, departments, units, and schools. We will examine the dynamics in the immediate context, and identify structural obstacles. We will explore how to create settings for inclusive dialogue, where all participants feel not only included but valued. Concrete tools and strategies will be provided.

Becoming More Inclusive Leaders

This workshop examines the leading theories and models of inclusive leadership, what successful inclusive leadership looks like, and concrete strategies and tools for leaders to further their knowledge, practices, communications, and visions of inclusion, including managing and preempting conflict and fostering civil dialogue. Specific issues and incidents can be addressed.

Cultural Responsiveness and Humility

How do we as individuals progress through the various stages of personal and professional development to become more culturally responsive? Why are humility and emotional intelligence essential? What tools and strategies do we need? And how can this be applied to make concrete change? We will examine methods of analyzing self and organizations to build more inclusive and equitable environments and communities.

From White Privilege to White Supremacy

Are white privilege and white supremacy the same thing? How do we conceptualize the relationship between the two? This presentation will help us understand the difference between the two, and present a model for understanding this relationship and the different forms it has taken at different points in time. We will examine the organized white supremacist movement (Klan, Neo-Nazis, etc), and the changes it has undergone.

Identifying Our Privilege

There is a widespread misunderstanding of what the term “privilege” means, and it is often assumed to be divisive. On the contrary, this activity breaks down us vs. them dynamics and brings everyone together based on our lived reality, where each one of us benefits from some form of privilege (gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability, age, citizenship).

This will involve greater self-reflection and examines the ways that each one of us contributes to reproducing inequitable relationships and organizations, often unconsciously. This activity is designed to create a deep awareness of how advantages and disadvantages operate in everyone’slives.

The activity experience and debrief is designed to support open dialogue where individuals feel comfortable sharing their own feelings, insights, and experiences, at a deeper level than they likely have in the past. The activity connects participants through the power of storytelling, humanizing everyone in the room, and emphasizes that everyone’s voices matter. We examine the reality that everyone benefits from some form of privilege, but not in the same way or to the same degree.

Nevertheless, everyone is brought together to consider how we can leverage our privilege for change, understanding the different but shared work we need to do.

Implicit Bias Matters

Implicit bias refers to attitudes or stereotypes about individuals or groups that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. This workshop will explore implicit bias with some focus on the neurological science behind the phenomena, the latest research about consequences, the distinction between intent and impact, and personal as well as organizational and community change. Participants will learn strategies and techniques for mitigating implicit bias.

Institutional Racism (and other ism's)

More and more white people are beginning to see snippets of institutional racism today. What does it really mean? How is racism rooted in our culture and our many institutions? What does it look like in schools? In the boardroom? In our legal and judicial system? Our law enforcement? How about the world of media, or sports? We will examine the multitude of forms of institutional racism, the importance of examining cultural and institutional racism rather than focusing on individual “racists,” and examine strategies for change. What difference can one individual make? Let us show you!


We will examine this popular buzz word, demystify the myths, and explore the realities. Intersectionality reflects our daily lived experiences. No one lives their lives embodied within one single social identity, such as race, gender, gender identity, class, etc. We always embody multiple identities, some more visible than others, and shifting in differing contexts. Understanding the operation of intersectionality at both the micro and macro level is essential. How does it operate at the individual, organization, institutional, and systemic levels? How does it inform political and organizational strategy?

Preempt and Respond

We work with organizations to develop plans to respond to incidents of bias, discrimination, and crisis, or as Helen Fox aptly put it in the title of her book, “When Race Breaks Out.” We employ a multi-pronged approach which includes understanding the context and antecedents; examining the culture and institutions and implementing appropriate methods to preempt a range of incidents, asking what can be done to prevent/reduce a range of challenging situations before they occur; creating an immediate response team and/or protocols; examining potential culture and policy changes; and implementing multiple measures of assessment.

Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threat, as well as stereotype lift, are specific responses to bias that can have a surprisingly significant impact. People enter the University, workplaces, and all situations, aware of the stereotypes attributed to the social identity groups they are ascribed to.

This awareness may at times be unconscious, but nevertheless has a measurable impact upon how people perform in specific circumstances, such as test-taking, job performance, participation, and more. Research finds that stereotype threat has an especially damaging impact on students of color, women in male-dominated disciplines, and other marginalized groups in a wide range of situations. It can also negatively impact the performance of those from privileged groups. We will present simple, research-based strategies to preempt their impact.

Talking about White Privilege from an Intersectional Perspective

What is white privilege? Why is there so much resistance to the concept? Do all white people have privilege? We will examine these and other common questions that arise in discussions of white privilege. Abby will present the Matrix Framework that approaches white privilege intersectionally, within the context of class, gender, and other social identities as they impact peoples’ daily experiences. We will examine other systems of privilege that intersect with white privilege. The Matrix framework not only provides a more accurate understanding of how white privilege operates but also responds directly to the challenges of talking about white privilege.

Techniques for Dealing with Hostility and Hate Speech

The rules of the game have changed. We are now hearing more disrespectful dialogues, hostility, resistance, and blatant sexism, racism, and homophobia. All of these enter our workplaces and daily dialogues. This presentation will begin by examining the differences between free speech, hate speech, hate crimes, and freedom of speech.

We will then focus on the specific forms these take, their prevalence and impact. We will discuss possible responses to increasingly tense and hostile conflicts and examine concrete techniques to accomplish the following goals in order to create more inclusive climates: setting the stage for civil and respectful discourse; preempting conflict (not disagreement); methods for responding to inappropriate comments, hate, resistance, and harassment (including cyberharassment), as well as methods for engaging in respectful and civil dialogue across our differences.

The Language of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity

Diversity and inclusion, equity vs. equality, privilege, intersectionality, and more. All of these terms can be confusing and may seem to overlap, nevertheless, understanding the differences is essential. In developing as individuals, organizations, or institutions, using up-to-date and appropriate language is important. What is the difference between cultural competency, cultural proficiency, cultural responsiveness, and cultural humility? Black or African-American? Hispanic, Latino, or Latinx? Homosexual, Gay, lesbian, and bisexual, queer, trans, and cisgender? People with disabilities or disabled people? What if we use the wrong term?

This session will examine all of these complexities, as well as the importance of self-naming in a historical context. We will examine why language is so important, and also, why we are destined to make mistakes at some point. When that happens, how do we respond? We will examine strategies to understand the current language landscape and tools for dealing with inevitable changes in the future.

The Matrix Model

This interactive dialogue introduces a theoretical, research-based model that provides a macro-level perspective of the dynamics of inequity and privilege. The dynamic model presents our own individual intersecting identities within the larger context of interpersonal relations, as well as organizational, institutional, cultural, and historical settings.

The visual image provides a fuller understanding of how systems of inequity work, marginalizing some while advantaging others. The model leads to a discussion of where and how we have the ability to create positive change.

"What's the Harm?": Examining Microaggressions

Impact often does not align with intent. Microaggressions consist of the use of specific words, comments, common sayings, questions, forms of dress, assumptions, and expectations that may seem harmless, and to do not intend to do damage, but often do. The cumulative impact of these slights on a daily basis can be anywhere from offensive to traumatic. They can produce ongoing feelings of fear, threat, anger, isolation, and exclusion. They can inhibit the recruitment and retention of students and staff. We will contextualize microaggressions and uncover their often-unintended consequences. We will discuss solutions to effectively challenge microaggressions and examine many ways that individuals can examine their own unconscious biases.

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