Symposium aims to unite marginalized students

The Students of Color Symposium started with an idea: a space for students from different backgrounds to congregate and speak about the issues and challenges faced by marginalized groups.

The Multicultural Student Affairs staff developed the idea for the two-day event following discussions with students about how to make the university environment more inclusive.

“We had been talking to students for quite a while about what can the University of Miami do, what can our office do that moves forward President Frenk’s agenda of creating a culture of belonging, while also educating each other and providing opportunities for authentic dialogue,” said Renee Callan, director of programs for MSA.

Callan, alongside Assistant Director of Programs for MSA Junior Pena, approached students Amber Tavakoly and Frankie Hedgepeth with their initial idea in 2017. Tavakoly and Hedgepeth took it upon themselves to make the idea a reality for the spring 2018 semester. Co-chair Tavakoly, a junior, said the symposium is meant to open communication between groups of students to discuss hot-button issues.

“It’s been a time of reckoning in many different ways,” said Tavakoly, a psychology major. “There are definitely conversations that have to be had, that unfortunately, don’t seem to be salient on campus. There’s been a lot of milestones and barriers that have been broken in terms of adversity but there’s still repercussions of centuries of oppression.”

The symposium, that has over 150 participants registered, will begin 6 p.m. Jan. 26 and will continue 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. on Jan. 27. The two-day event will kick off with a networking reception where participants will be able to meet and converse with each other as well as guest speakers, including Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ryan Holmes and editor-in-chief and co-founder of Very Smart Brothas Damon Young. The second part of the event will feature speakers and workshops to facilitate discussion about topics such as identity, navigating career paths and and social justice issues.

Tavakoly said the event is named for the people they want to invite and uplift: students of color.

“We just want to address the nuances that means to be a student of color, but it’s not meant to alienate who don’t identify as students of color at all,” Tavakoly said. “More than anything, we just want people to know that this will be a space where topics that affect students of color will be addressed.”

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