For Toneisha Stubbs ’18, the Student of Color Conference at Trinity College this past weekend was a powerful experience.
“It was something that I really needed,” Stubbs, one of the two Kenyon students who attended, said. “It was really empowering. I feel like I can finish the rest of my last semester at Kenyon with that empowerment.”
The College sponsored students to attend the Student of Color Conference organized by the Consortium on High Achievement and Success (CHAS). Upon President Sean Decatur’s recommendation, the College has participated in this annual conference since the spring of 2014. Typically, there are two separate conferences, the Black and Latino Male Conference and the Women of Color Conference, but this year the two conferences were combined.
This year, the theme of the conference was “Reclaiming Our Time: From the Margin to the Center” and consisted of workshops, speakers, group discussions and panels related to the theme of reclaiming, redefining and challenging cultural norms.
“[The theme] was about how we can combat the ‘other’ narrative that so often these predominantly white institutions place on minority students,” Armiya Shaikh ’21 wrote in an email to the Collegian. Out of the several workshops offered, she attended one titled “Love and Sex On PWIs [predominantly white institutions]: Race, Sexuality, and #MeToo.”
“It was really great to have these conversations about our identity in this academic context because a better understanding of myself in these white spaces is one way I can work on bettering the overall environment.”
Jacky Neri Arias ’13, assistant director of the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI), said she hoped students returned to campus feeling rested and comfortable being themselves. “A lot of students of color, and people of color in general, when they are in spaces where they consistently feel like they have to explain themselves — they can’t be themselves openly, they can’t speak their minds,” she said. “It can be very draining.”
She hopes taking students to places where they are surrounded by like-minded people can help motivate them. “On the academic side, I want them to leave feeling energized, to come back to campus and to use what they learned, whether it was in a session or from the keynote speaker or speaking in their own groups, to actually make a change at Kenyon,” Neri Arias said.
Some of the students who attended the conference a few years ago came back to campus and talked to Chris Kennerly, associate dean of students and director of ODEI, about hosting the annual conference at the College in the future, Neri Arias said. Kennerly said the College may host the Black and Latino Male Conference in the fall of 2019. “They saw how big of an impact it had on the college they went to,” Neri Arias said.
Kennerly, along with Professor of Music Reginald Sanders, are the College’s representatives for the Consortium. Each college must be part of the consortium to have their students attend the conferences, and the representatives include one faculty member and one administrator. As representatives, Kennerly and Sanders work with faculty from other colleges and attend meetings.
Although initially eight students were selected to go to the conference, ultimately only two students went. Neri Arias said the dates of the conference clashed with that of other events, like the Alumni of Color weekend.
“Hopefully, the next time where there is not an overlap with activities happening on campus, we can get more students to come,” Stubbs said. “Especially more first years — that way they can take the conversation they have at the conference and bring it back here.”