Students of color symposium is back

The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs’ annual Students of Color Symposium (SOCS) is back and better than ever as it returns to an in-person format this year.

This year’s symposium, held on March 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Lakeside Village Expo Hall, is focused on the theme of “Forging the Future: Looking Back to Move Forward.”

The theme is centered on growing from the tumultuous pandemic era that fueled heated discussions around race and other social movements of the past towards a focus on allyship and community for students of color at UMiami.

Students of color symposium posters are seen throughout campus.
Students of color symposium is seen promoted throughout campus. Photo credit: Caroline Val

“In terms of how we came up with the theme, it felt sporadic in a good way,” said Dahlia Mason, a junior health studies major at UM who serves as one of SOCS’ marketing and outreach chairs.

“We had our very first meeting sitting around this big table and somehow, in a group of about 20 of us, we narrowed our ideas down,” Mason continued.

Three sessions will make up the event this year, with the first session being a faculty panel including professors from different departments and cultural backgrounds at the university.

The panel will feature Michael Bustamante, an associate professor in the department of history, Marisol Capellan, a lecturer in the department of management, Caroline LaPorte, a professor in the department of anthropology and Willis Jones, an associate professor in the school of education.

The next session will feature the “From Present to Future Simulation,” an interactive virtual and live experience for participants to walk through impactful social movements from the past.

The simulation will offer participants the opportunity to listen to current UM student leaders and generate their own commitment towards a better future for all at the university.

“With the faculty panel, you’re looking backwards at older generations who can speak on what they’ve done, what changes they’ve seen, and what they want to see,” said Kailyn Hayes, a junior studying neuroscience who serves as a SOCS’ executive chair.

“With the simulation, you’re able to kind of look towards the future and what we as students want to see and do,” Hayes continued.

Raymond Santana, a criminal justice advocate and member of The Exonerated Five, will also serve as the keynote speaker for SOCS 2022, filling in the third session of the symposium.

“When it came to speakers and suggestions of who we should invite, we really talked about people who made an impact during their young years – people who we could relate to,” Mason said.

“So I think that’s something we were really trying to focus on. We are young, who is someone that can really relate to us when they made an impact or when they went through this very impactful experience?” Mason continued.

While this is the second year that the symposium has received funding from the president’s office. This is the first year these funds will be implemented in an in-person setting.

According to Lia Mussie, a sophomore ecosystem science and political science major who serves as the logistics chair for SOCS, this includes everything from the futuristic decorations for set-up to providing breakfast and lunch for participants.

“Obviously over Zoom, it’s very hard to see your vision come out—people have cameras off, they’re muted, it’s not as engaged,” Mussie said.

“So I think here we’re able to see our ideas come into fruition a little bit more and see the student body get more involved with it,” Mussie continued.

Another new opportunity that comes with the in-person format will be SOCS’ expo with vendors and the Toppel Career Center, where participants can speak with professionals on various issues impacting students and communities of color, network in their career goals, and even partake in a free headshot session.

The symposium also emphasizes its accessibility to all students interested in attending, regardless of their identity and background.

“In an area like Miami, there can easily be a lot of preconceived notions, and it’s simply about challenging them,” Mussie said.

“We want people to learn about social movements, we want people to learn about how they can make change as an individual in the community, but I think it’s broadly important to know that creating space to have conversations can allow for lasting change,” Mussie continued.

For those interested in attending the 2022 Students of Color Symposium, they can register here with the code SOCS22. Students can also find more details about event speakers and planners through the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs’ Instagram @um_msa.