Pacific University will be sending 30 students to Gonzaga University Oct. 13 to Oct. 14 for the Students of Color Conference. This will be the second time Pacific sends students to the conference, participating for the first time last year.
The primary goal of this conference is to educate students on diversity and multiculturalism and teach them to survive at a predominantly white university. Despite that open minded goal of the conference, several students still expressed worry to Narce Rodriguez, Chief Officer of the Center of Equity, Diversion and Inclusion, about being accepted at the conference.
“They wanted to be assured that they were being validated as students of color,” Rodriguez said. A majority of the students attending this conference are from private universities. The experiences students of color have at private institutions can be very different from those enrolled in state schools.
Thirty-four Pacific students applied for 30 seats at the conference. Most of the funding for this conference came from the Center of Equity, Diversion and Inclusion and the College of Optometry.
All of the workshops at the conference are directed and led by the students. In addition to these workshops, there are caucuses for queer people of color, Latinx people, Southeast Asians, working class students and all marginalized individuals with an interest in pursuing a professional career in medicine.
When students attended the conference last year, they realized that the stress they feel about being a student of color in a predominantly white institution are similar to those of non-white students at every private school in Oregon and Washington.
Last year, 250 students attended the conference at Whitman College and came back energized with big ideas. One of the ideas they returned to campus with was seeing if the university would be willing to do a land acknowledgement, which many institutions of higher education do.
“A land acknowledgement recognizes that the land currently at Pacific University once belonged to a Native American tribe,” Rodriguez said. “We were the first Native American school in the state of Oregon. So that was the idea, what can we do to have Native American week?”
Rodriguez is unsure what students will bring back from this year’s conference.
“What I saw last year was them sharing what they learned with other classmates and bringing their knowledge and empowerment back into the classroom,” Rodriguez said. “I have no idea what they will get out of the conference this year.”