Conference aims to educate, inspire activism


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

The Office of Multicultural Student Development will host Appalachian State University’s second annual Equality in Action Conference April 11 in the Reich College of Education building.

The Equality in Action Conference is a social justice-themed conference that seeks to improve understanding between different identity groups, create conversations around how the community can effect positive change, and make Appalachian’s student body more informed, thoughtful and equipped to confidently discuss and resolve minority student issues.

“It’s designed to engage students who are interested in social justice topics, and foster a sense of civic engagement,” said Gus Pena, the director of the Office of Multicultural Student Development.

Under the broad direction of the Office of Multicultural Student Development, the events at the conference will be held by student organizations such as the LGBT Center, Student Government Association, the Sexuality and Gender Alliance and the Appalachian Popular Programing Society.

“The intention is to give people a wide variety of options to learn about things they don’t know about already,” said Betsy Kelly, a graduate student in the counseling department who works with the LGBT Center.

Maddie Majerus, a senior political science major who helped organize the event, believes the conference is important because it brings social justice issues to the forefront.

“People are having these conversations on a greater scale, and are ready to act on these ideas and these issues,” Majerus said.

Jacob Tobia, a recent graduate of Duke University, will be the keynote speaker. Tobia is a prominent writer, speaker and advocate for justice for gender nonconforming, genderqueer and transgender people and will be giving a speech about careers in social advocacy.

This year’s conference will feature numerous differences from last year’s conference. Last year the conference dealt specifically with LGBT issues. This year, the conference covers multiple facets of social justice.

“Last year our LGBT Center had really grown and changed in the last few years, and we felt like the community and our volunteers were ready for a bigger project,” Majerus said. “But this past year, with our changing campus climate, it seems like people are really looking for that opportunity to have intersectional discussions, so we changed the focus to be on social justice in general.”

In addition to including a wider range of groups, this year’s conference will also place a greater significance on activism and civic engagement.

“It’s very intentional this year that it’s for students who not only want to learn, but they also want to be able to apply that new information in their communities,” Pena said.

Students can register for the event at Registration is free, and the the deadline is April 6.

Story: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter