Featured Speakers

The PACRAO 2020 Planning Committee is pleased to announce Dr. Michael Benitez as one of our featured speakers



A highly sought out speaker at colleges and conferences nationwide, Dr. Michael Benitez is a nationally-acclaimed scholar practitioner and educator in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education. Dr. Benitez is known for his down-to-earth, insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues, ranging; leadership and identity development, intersectionality, race and ethnicity, postcolonial thought, knowledge production, and critical pedagogy and practice in higher education.


Dr. Benitez has authored book chapters and articles on student identity, hip hop culture, cultural centers, cultural and ethnic studies, institutional research and campus climates, and faculty development. He is co-editor of the anthology, Crash Course: Reflections on the Film “Crash” for Critical Dialogues About Race, Power and Privilege, and has contributed to online magazines, scholarly databases, books, and journals. Benitez has been featured in educational documentaries such as Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity and has appeared on talk shows such as Worlds Apart, Hard Knock Radio, and Speak out with Tim Wise.


Part of his success lies in his ability to speak heart-to-heart while bridging theory and scholarly inquiry with everyday life, his use of accessible language that multiple audiences can relate to, and his deep knowledge and practice of innovate equity and inclusion-based strategies and approaches to address some of higher education’s more pressing campus climate issues of today, providing multi-context and issue frameworks for empowerment and transformation. Benitez has helped create, shape, and lead such innovate programs as the Diversity Monologues- a critical spoken work initiative he has helped implement and shape at multiple institutions, the campus climate community participatory framework, and the Northwest 5 Consortium for supporting faculty of color.


Over the last two decades, Dr. Benitez has served higher education in different capacities, including; academic and student affairs; diversity, equity and inclusion; EEO and Title IX compliance, and teaching. Dr. Benitez has served as Director of Diversity Initiatives at Dickinson College, Director of Intercultural Development and the Black Cultural Center at Lafayette College, adjunct faculty in the Graduate School of Leadership and Professional Advancement at Duquesne University, Director of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership at Grinnell College, and Chief Diversity Officer/Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, and Title IX and EEO Officer at the University of Puget Sound. Presently, he serves as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Metropolitan State University, Denver.


Dr. Benitez completed both his B.S. and M.Ed. at the Pennsylvania State University, where he gained interest in pursuing doctoral studies as a TRIO student and McNair Scholar. He holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy with a focus on Social Justice in Higher Education, from Iowa State University School of Education, and has been recognized with multiple leadership and scholarly awards, throughout his career.

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