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The Blue & Gray Press | December 17, 2017

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UMW holds first-ever social justice summit

UMW holds first-ever social justice summit

By WEIQI LIU

The James Farmer Multicultural Center and Student Transition Program hosted its first Social Justice and Leadership Summit on Saturday, March 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium.  This is the first time the University of Mary Washington has organized an event related to social justice and leadership. More than 20 students of diverse backgrounds attended the summit.

Guest speaker Joan Iva Fawcett, director of Student Government Advising and Leadership Programs and the associate director of the LEAD Center at the University of California, Berkeley, facilitated the summit by motivating and encouraging students to participate in many engaging activities and share thoughts and experiences with peers in a safe and unpressured environment.

The Social Justice and Leadership Summit created an experiential opportunity for students to develop a concept and understanding of identity, social justice and allyship and better their college experience. The workshop helped students to support and promote social justice and equality on campus and within their respective communities, equipped students with the knowledge and skills needed to encourage and lead social change and explain the connection between leadership and social justice.

Carmen Flores, a junior international affairs and music double major, believes that the summit experience will help her become more open minded.

“I completely agree with that we are all based on perception, how we perceive certain group either base their ethnicity or their religion,” Flores said. “What I’m hoping to get out this is understanding why other people think a certain way. I hope to become more open minded, when I see a social justice problem, I can see it from a different angle, not just mine own way of thinking… If we understand social justice and how to fight for it right now, we can be better equipped for the world.”

Daksha Khatri, a sophomore English major, also attended and was inspired by the summit. “Sometimes we could do things that are wrong but people perceive it as norm,” Khatri said. “We do have this kind of issue on campus, if you don’t have knowledge and understanding, you can’t do anything about it.”

The summit was organized by Justin Wilkes, interim director of the Student Transition Program, and James Bland, assistant director of the James Farmer Multicultural Center.

Bland said that he and Wilkes want to bring opportunity to campus for student leaders or any student to come together to talk about and explore issues with social justice and understand how social justice and leadership go hand in hand.

“To be a leader, students really need to be able to look at what social justice is,” Bland said. “Not only just on our campus, but also in the American society. Also the summit is for students to start to build collaboration with one another so then they can partner with one another afterward with different movements. We have members from Black Students Association, Jewish Students Association, etc. Their issues are not just their issues, but also our issues.”