Social justice conference to bring sociology, activism, dance to OSU

Free conference includes well-known speakers, including keynote speaker Juana Bordas, and aims to celebrate diversity

By: Madeline Hoag

Posted: 2/2/10

By Madeline Hoag

The Daily Barometer

OSU will host a free event open to all students from Feb. 3 to 4 called "Conference on Intersecting Identities and Interaction: Overcoming Barriers to Social Justice." Sponsored by the OSU Women's Center and the Women's Leadership Initiative, the event welcomes speakers and workshops on a broad range of topics including sociology, art, poetry, leadership development and activism.

Katie Parker, a senior majoring in history and the conference coordinator, has been working on organizing the event since last August. She was inspired by the events that had taken place in previous years focusing on gender and identity, but she wanted to make this year's event different.

"I wanted to take the idea and run with it and make the event more applicable to a larger number of students," Parker said.

Some highlights of the conference include speaker Juana Bordas and the International Women's Night. Bordas is the author of "Salsa, Soul and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age," as well as the president of Mestiza Leadership International. Her keynote speech is called "The Power of WE: Leading in our Multicultural Millennium" and will be held in LaSells Stewart Center starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening.

"I heard about Juana Bordas in an e-mail from a staff member who knew about the author and recommended her book," said Beth Rietveld, Women's Center director. Rietveld ordered a copy of her book for the Women's Center Library and then looked into having Bordas come to speak for her "Women in Leadership" class. She decided later to not only have her visit her class, but make the speech available to the entire OSU campus.

The idea for the International Women's Night on Feb. 4 came from OSU student Fatimah Almousawi.

"Almousawi walked into the Women's Center one day with the idea to do something interesting for international women and create a comfortable and fun place to honor international women," Rietveld said.

The event on Thursday starts at 7 p.m. and is scheduled to include a wide variety of activities.

"It will be a celebration of dance, including Bollywood, music and dress from around the world, henna temporary tattoos and international desserts," Parker said.

Parker is responsible for almost every workshop and speaker available throughout the conference.

"I wanted to do something to make the community better. Diversity should be celebrated rather than a barrier," Parker said. "Social justice is vital to having an equal society and we must fight together to make a difference. The event is applicable to every field and it is essential that we send out an OSU workforce that is effective."

Parker hopes that anyone who attends the conference will realize his or her importance to society.

"I hope that students who attend the event will understand that they can have a voice and that they are not just one person. I want everyone to realize that they can start fighting for social justice at any age and that there is a social responsibility in almost every field. I hope that students come away with an understanding of social justice and feel more connected to one another," Parker said.

Rietveld is pleased to see an event like this at OSU.

"It gives faculty and students a chance to come together to explore differences and intersections and is an opportunity for students to meet faculty on a different level and learn about a wide variety of topics."

"OSU is lucky to hold an event like this and I am looking forward to attending such a diverse event that allows students to better understand social justice," said Ali Jenness, a freshman in university exploratory studies.

Registration for any of the workshops is still open at www.oregonstate.edu/womenscenter. Registration is not required for Juana Bordas' lecture or the International Women's Night. All of the events are free and if a student is not registered, there will be a table in the MU student lounge to check if there are available drop-in spots.