Students of Color Symposium demonstates “Mental Health is Mental Wealth”

Students of Color Symposium, which will be held on Feb. 4, 2023. Photo credit: Multicultural Student Affairs

Massage chairs, essential oils, free food and a word from New York Times Best Seller, Alex Elle. These are some of the experiences that will make up the sixth annual Students of Color Symposium (SOCS).

SOCS is one of the initiatives UM conducts in order to promote diversity and inclusion at the university. Each year, the symposium is held for individuals to connect, learn and grow with one another.

“I think [SOCS] changed the way I think about leading on campus and how it impacts us to create these spaces on campus where you get to talk about imperative topics,” said senior Cassandra Michel, executive chair of SOCS and psychology and community and applied psychological studies major.

Each year, SOCS has a different theme for any interested students, staff and faculty to engage with. This year, SOCS’s theme is “I Choose Me: Mental Health is Mental Wealth,” which will take place on Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“For this topic, tapping into the fact that mental health is really important and it really does equate to mental wellness,” Michel said.

The day will begin with a morning meditation and movement led by the UM Counseling Center, followed by opening and welcome remarks from event coordinators. Throughout the day, three key sessions will be held, including a practitioner panel discussion, interactive breakout sessions and the keynote speaker, Elle.

“I’ve followed [ Elle] for many, many years,” graduate practicum student at Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), Merissa Yancy said. “I pitched it to the students in hopes that they would bite and they did and they all did their own research and looked at her Instagram. She has a ton of followers, she’s super popular, so we’re excited to have her.”

MSA, the organization hosting SOCS, strives to allow attendees to connect with one another and gain a greater understanding of their physical and emotional well-being. Throughout Michel’s years at UM, she has attended multiple SOCS and has now grown to become a leader for the event.

“I was a spring admit, that was one of the first events I ever went to,” Michel said. “I definitely remember just feeling like I was in a space of other students who really wanted to learn and grow. I think that’s another thing that SOCS does really intentionally is bring people together who want to benefit and better themselves.”

Since SOCS has taken place in March in years past, the committee had to work over winter break to ensure the event could happen earlier this year. SOCS is largely put on by students, who will be leading a lot of activities throughout the day.

“I think the selflessness of our committee is going to shine throughout everything that you see at the symposium and I’m excited to see how much work they put in and how you get to see that,” Michel said.

So far, around 180 individuals have signed up for the event. SOCS is free for everyone and prospective participants can sign up at

“I definitely think that the name of the theme is something we should all reflect on,” graduate student assistant for MSA Gianna Garcia said. “Once our students have that knowledge on why [mental health] is so important and the resources they can use to get better, they can thrive in any other aspect of their life.”