PennWest’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will host a higher-education leader, photographer and social justice worker to speak at the 22nd annual Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration.

Elise Michaux, a Connellsville, Pennsylvania, native who serves as marketing and communications director for Erie County Community College, will deliver the keystone address at 11 a.m. Friday, June 14, in Hart Chapel on the PennWest Clarion campus. The address will also be broadcast live on PennWest’s YouTube channel.

Known for her dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion, Michaux stylizes her name with lowercase letters as a tribute to queer activist and feminist bell hooks – whose work “Ain’t I A Woman” profoundly impacted her life during her undergraduate years.

Michaux earned a bachelor’s degree in literature and a master’s in student affairs in higher education from Slippery Rock University, where she serves on the Council of Trustees.

After graduate school, Elise began her higher education career at Robert Morris University as a counselor for special student populations in the Center for Student Success. In this role, she specifically worked with student-athletes, assisting them in creating their academic schedules, connecting them to appropriate academic support services, and ensuring their overall wellbeing.

Outside of her professional duties, Michaux is dedicated to serving her community – frequently presenting on topics of diversity and using her social media platform to advocate for them. Additionally, Elise is an avid photographer, specializing in portraiture since 2016.

Dr. Joseph Croskey, associate professor dedicated to PennWest student success, will provide the introduction for the event. Croskey has overseen the Juneteenth celebration since 2018. PennWest Clarion’s campus has hosted Juneteenth since 2002.

“Often we celebrate holidays to mark special occasions in our history,” Croskey said. “The events leading up to Juneteenth are like no other in world history and, therefore, are noteworthy and serve as a clarion call that we must strive daily to be leaders in creating a free and just society as we address inequities.”

Juneteenth celebrates the day in 1865 when enslaved people of African descent in Texas learned of their freedom after the Civil War, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. The holiday was originally celebrated with prayer meetings and by singing spirituals and wearing new clothes to represent newfound freedom.