A Closer Look Inside NCDA’s DEI Symposium

By Natasha Barnes

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) offers an annual conference and the year 2023 brought about something a little different for the participants. During the planning for the 2023 conference, a focus was placed on social justice issues and diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and accessibility (DEIBA). To address this focus, the 2023 NCDA president collaborated with NCDA’s Diversity Initiatives & Cultural Inclusion (DICI) committee co-chairs to discuss a symposium. The DICI co-chairs then worked with a board appointed liaison to create the magic that was the first NCDA DEI Symposium. This collaborative effort added a missing dimension to the conference and provided a space for increased cultural awareness and sensitivity to take place.

Not surprisingly, the focus on DEIBA in the 2023 conference will be followed up in 2024 at the Global Conference in San Diego in June. NCDA as an organization recognizes the importance of continuing to support career development professionals as they advance in their understanding of DEIBA. The NCDA Diversity Statement clearly supports the need and goals for a symposium at the annual conference, as it states in part,

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) acknowledges the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of everyone by honoring diversity and promoting social justice. NCDA views diversity from an intersectional perspective, acknowledging the ways in which identities operate within systems of power, privilege, and oppression. (NCDA, 2017)

The Purpose of a DEI Symposium

The purpose of a DEI Symposium is to provide an opportunity for the career development community to gain insight into career issues that are relevant to different cultural populations. NCDA’s training and credentialing programs require understanding and mastery of 12 competencies; one competency is “Diverse Populations – recognizing the special needs of various groups and adapt services to meet their needs” (NCDA, n.d., number 4). The symposium allows people from many occupational backgrounds and specialty areas to shine a light on the impact of culture on career development and planning. In addition, the symposium provides knowledge of how career practitioners can aid and advocate through cultural competence and social justice advocacy.

Diverse Participants At Symposium

The DEI Symposium Panel and Presentations

The 2023 DEI Symposium was a three-hour, two-part offering on the last day of the conference. The first part of the event was a State of the Union panel discussion, where career services professionals were asked a series of questions related to the present-day career issues that individuals face such as discrimination, harassment, cultural insensitivity, etc. This discussion allowed for panelists to give their viewpoints of these issues, as well as provided participants opportunities to comment and ask questions related to the different topics.

The second part of the 2023 symposium was a selection of nine different presentations. Each presentation was 20 minutes, which provided an opportunity for participants to attend at least four presentations. During these presentations, career service providers shed light on social justice issues in career development and planning and best practices to address the issues with different populations.

The 2024 DEI Symposium will offer a slightly different layout such that in each of the seven program presentation series, attendees will have the option of choosing a DEI symposium session instead of a regular conference presentation. The first session, offered during presentation series 1, will open the symposium with a State of the Union regarding DEIBA. Workshops and roundtable discussions, allowing time for networking and learning best practices, follow throughout the remainder of the conference presentation series.

DEI Symposium Presentation Topics

DEI symposium topics vary, based on the expertise of the presenters and the populations that they serve. In 2023, the following presentation topics were offered:

  • The array of DEI approaches that can be used in career development
  • Expanding the scope of career professionals related to public policy and government advocacy
  • Ways to promote identity safety in career development
  • Social justice and career development for youth in low-income communities 
  • Variations to coming out in the workplace
  • Understanding how to effectively prepare neurodivergent students for the world of work
  • The needs of undocumented students and creating opportunities and safe spaces for employment
  • The importance of using inclusive language that invites everyone to the “table” as it relates to careers.

The 2024 symposium presenters are keeping these topics in mind, while inserting fresh aspects, issues, and trends. Allyship and mental health are two of the topics that will be discussed in the upcoming symposium. There can be cognitive and affective costs related to allyship, so this year’s symposium will shine light on the importance of understanding allyship and protecting one’s mental health while being an ally.

The Buzz Around the Symposium

The first DEI Symposium proved to be successful, as the coordinators received comments from the participants praising the added focus to the conference. They appreciated the opportunity to talk with experts in the field on topics related to social justice and DEIBA issues in the world of career development and planning. They also enjoyed the opportunity to learn strategies to aid the populations that they are presently working with as it relates to those issues. This feedback supported the NCDA decision to once again offer the symposium at the NCDA 2024 Conference. In addition, the DICI committee has worked with the presenters from the symposium to develop webinars and podcasts related to the topics that were at the conference, as well as other career issues and special populations. The first in a series of webinars and podcasts will begin in the upcoming months before the 2024 DEI Symposium.  

Navigating Sensitive Topics with the Help of NCDA

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) saw a need and filled the need. Career development professionals were in need of a safe space to discuss sensitive topics while also learning ways to navigate these topics and social justice issues. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Symposium at the 2023 NCDA Conference provided the membership with all that and set the stage for future symposiums. Presentations were orchestrated to provide knowledge and discussion around many of the pressing career and cultural issues of today. The 2024 symposium at the Global Career Development Conference will bring forward new presenters and new career-related issues that are impacting career professionals and the populations that they service.



NCDA. (n.d.). List of career development competencies. NCDA Facilitating Career Development Training and Certification Program. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/asset_manager/get_file/631290?ver=0

NCDA. (2017). Diversity statement. NCDA Legal Disclaimer. https://www.ncda.org/aws/NCDA/pt/sp/disclaimer


Natasha Barnes, Ed.D, CCC, NCC is a counselor educator, as well as the founder/career consultant at I.O.U. Consultation, LLC. She is also a co-chair for NCDA's Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Inclusion Committee and the associate editor for the K-12 section of Career Convergence. She can be reached at natashabarnes.ed.d@gmail.com

Printer-Friendly Version