More than 150 student leaders and aspiring student leaders gathered on a Saturday morning in October to learn ways to strengthen Stony Brook’s diverse campus community through inclusive practices in the first Student Diversity Leadership Conference.
The conference, spearheaded by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and in collaboration with Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Faculty Student Association, Undergraduate Student Government, and other campus areas, was conceived as a learning opportunity where students could not only develop their leadership skills through the lens of intersectionality, but also enhance students’ understanding of how diversity and inclusion apply to the development of their life skills and career goals. Primary funding for this initiative was provided by a Presidential Diversity Initiative Grant.
The theme “Ignite The Student Leader in You!” was chosen by the planning committee to represent the goals of this conference, the first of its kind at Stony Brook. “This conference was designed to inspire students to become campus leaders who will help shape Stony Brook as a diverse learning environment where everyone feels they belong and have a place,” explained Cheryl Chambers, Associate Dean for Multicultural Affairs.
Keynote Speaker Christina Vargas, Chief Diversity Officer/Title IX Coordinator, Suffolk County Community College, and Stony Brook alumna, spoke about her experience as a student leader, her current role, and provided advice to students on how to be an ally and stand up. Vargas also spoke about how this conference would “give our students the tools and the resources that they need to be successful. We want our students to feel welcomed and to feel included in everything that they do. And this is a great chance for them to learn, to grow, to share and to talk to one another about the things that work.”
Student attendees participated in different workshops facilitated by various campus departments and student groups such as the Career Center and Campus Residences, as well as external partners such as Target. Lunch also had a diversity component, as it showcased the recipes of celebrity guest chefs from past Heritage Month celebrations that the Faculty Student Association brought to campus, such as Chickpea Curry from this year’s Black History Month and Three Sisters Stew from last year’s Native American Heritage Month.
“This event is important to me because it’s an opportunity for student leaders to come together and really work together to create a more inclusive environment on campus,” said Kiara Arias’ 21, Political Science student and one of the event organizers.