The University Honors Program, Latino Resource Center and Center for Black Studies have collaborated to put together the university’s first-ever social justice conference, entitled, “Strengthening our Campus Community while Developing Culturally Effective Students,” held on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013.
The 2013 social justice conference will allow students to explore varying concepts, theories, and experiences as defined by a social justice framework. Connecting research, academics and personal experiences is an interdisciplinary approach, enabling the identification, validation, and articulation of the definition of and role in social justice.
“University Honors is a great model of the growing diversity here at NIU. We value students’ experiences and understand that in order to better meet their academic priorities, we need to develop a welcoming environment,” says Vanessa Segundo, assistant director for programs and communications at the University Honors Program. “Our goal is to actively engage our students and build a strong community.”
The conference will feature keynote speaker David Stovall, an associate professor of Educational Policy Studies and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Dr. Stovall studies the influence of race in urban education, community development, and housing. His work investigates the significance of race in the quality of schools located in communities that are changing both racially and economically. From a practical and theoretical perspective, his research draws from Critical Race Theory, educational policy analysis, sociology, urban planning, political science, community organizing, and youth culture.
“I’m really excited for this conference as per my academic background, issues of diversity and equality are extremely important,” says Lauren Nale, a senior rehabilitation services major, noting that her University Honors study abroad trip to the Hague this past summer sparked her interest in social justice. “As students, we need to learn to have a broad understanding of diversity and value the individual in an ever-changing society.”
The conference will include practical demonstrations that will encourage dialogue and engagement, while challenging critical thinking about experiences, influence, and commitment to social justice at NIU and its communities.
Segundo adds, “The social justice conference is a great platform for our students to explore differences and initiate tough conversations but understand that we share a common core: we are all Huskies.”