Third annual Students of Color Symposium provides education, inclusivity

The Students of Color Symposium, in its third year and counting, continued to teach students about different identities and provide students with a safe space on campus.

For Kaley Kohen, a junior psychology major, said the symposium left her with new perspectives and made her think more reflectively about her identity. Kohn came to Miami from a primarily white school district, and having a space where she could talk to other students who go through the same experiences as her was important.

“The program has definitely improved since my freshman year when it first started,” Kohen said. “They are doing such a good job at promoting unity within the students that attend.”

The two-night event coordinated by the Office of Multicultural Students Affairs began on Jan. 31 with a panel discussion with featured panelists Jonathan Vilma- former American football linebacker and current ESPN college football analyst, and Kysha Harriell, associate clinical professor and program director for the Athletic Training Program at the University of Miami.

Julianne Bugsy, a freshman majoring in microbiology and immunology, said her favorite moment was when the panelists answered her question about her future.

“I want to go to medical school, and that’s 10 to 12 years of my life,” Bugsy said. “I asked them how they kept themselves from being daunted by challenges in their career, and they answered by saying to take a step back and breathe.”

The panelists also stressed the importance of mentorship, another theme that was common at this year’s symposium.

The second and final day of events on Feb. 1 started with a talk from poet and educator Steven Valentine about how identity can shape all facets of a person’s life, from mental health to education.

Rachel Bergeron, a freshman biochemistry major, said, “It was enlightening to talk to different people from around campus who are also students of color and to really be able to reflect on the different world views that we have.”

Next, professor Nebil Husayn and community psychologist and educator Donna Nevel spoke about Islamophobia.

The night concluded with a game of “Factuality,” a board game that illustrates the different prejudices and setbacks that certain populations face going through their daily lives. It was led by educator and advocate Queenstar Akrong.

Overall, Kohen said at the end of the event, “As a black woman who faces discrimination, I never want to ignore it when it happens to others.”

Fedeline Camile, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major, was on the planning committee. Her goal for the event was to encourage students to educate themselves.

“This conversation merely started here, it doesn’t stop here,” Camile said. “The conversation needs to continue beyond the third floor of Shalala, and we need to understand that getting educated makes our voices strong.”