Give students a pedestal and they will speak
“I think I want to present this year. I think I am ready.” These were the words from FM student Yamileth (Yami) Shaw. Yami heard from her advisor in TRiO, a federally-funded student support services grant available on the FM campus, that a conference at SUNY Cortland was accepting proposals to present. Eagerly, Yami approached her academic advisor while formulating topics to present upon.
For three consecutive years, Courtney Wilson, academic advisor for the TRiO Student Support Services Grant program, has taken students to present and/or attend the Student Conference on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice at SUNY Cortland. The conference is open to all higher ed institutions in the state of New York. This day-long conference encompasses topics related to, but not limited, to the following: diversity, race, class and gender, social justice, LGBTQ+, disabilities, inclusion, and social justice.
The conference kicked off with a warm welcome from the president of SUNY Cortland, followed by a student speaker. Afterwards, attendees are directed to attend two breakout sessions before lunch.
During lunch, there are cultural performances presented by students from SUNY Cortland. There were students who sang and there were others who did dance ensembles.
Immediately following the cultural performances, there was a keynote speaker who stressed the importance of mental health awareness on college campuses.
After the keynote speaker, attendees were directed to the remaining two breakout sessions. By the way, this conference was organized and executed all by students.
Once Yami heard about this opportunity, she invited her fellow students Giovanni Harvey, Jenyah Patrick and Malayshia Jackson to present as well.
Like Yami, their responses exuded excitement, but hesitated with choosing the perfect topic. After much thought and consideration, they completed their proposals, awaiting an acceptance letter to present in April.
Yami chose to present on diversity, titling her presentation, “Step out of Your Comfort Zone.” In her presentation, she challenged attendees by listing common stereotypes associated with specific populations of individuals. After, she asked for participants to critically think about responses they choose in certain situations and to be thoughtful before speaking.
Giovanni decided to take a more radical approach and titled his presentation, “Let Your Voice be Heard: A Social Advocacy Story.” Here, Giovanni focused on his personal advocacy experiences at college, while explaining best practices to advocate for self and for others. Through his experiences, both good and bad, he wanted to provide fellow students with skills necessary to be effective advocates on their respective campuses.
Jenyah Patrick and Malayshia Jackson co-presented on a topic titled, “Please, Don’t Touch my Hair!” The ladies spoke about the history of black hair and the harsh remarks that has led to the adoption of Eurocentric beauty. Moreover, they talked about the movement of accepting natural hair while using theoretical modalities to complement the argument of accepting natural hair.
All three proposals were accepted to present at the conference. Prior to attending the conference, the students presented their topics to some faculty and staff members on the FM campus to provide constructive feedback for their presentation. After the presentations concluded, all were left with an amazing experience and recommendation for others to attend this extraordinary conference.
If you want more information about the annual conference, please follow the link below: https://www2.cortland.edu/offices/multicultural/annual_conference/
This article was written by Courtney Wilson, TRiO program academic advisor at FM.