Thinking differently, growing together
Nov. 21, 2017 La Grande, Ore. — Twenty students from Eastern Oregon University attended the Oregon Students of Color Conference Nov. 17 to 19 in Eugene.
The annual conference, hosted by the Oregon Students of Color Coalition, invites college students across the state to converge for two-and-a-half days packed with more than 70 workshops, speakers and panel discussions covering equity, inclusion, anti-oppression, leadership development and issues affecting historically marginalized populations (African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx, Natives, Asian/Pacific Islander and LGBTQ communities).
This year’s theme, ROOTS: Radical Organizing in Oregon and Transforming Solidarity, was accompanied by notions of history and celebration, growth and transformation, and of systemic engrainment and structure.
EOU’s Student Council for Multicultural Affairs (SCMA) partnered with ASEOU and the Multicultural Center to sponsor the trip. Tyana Musrasrik, a senior in sociology from Micronesia, serves as SCMA coordinator and worked with ASEOU Director of Diversity Nicole Almanza to organize the trip.
“I am excited that students from across the state are coming together in one place, and I’m looking forward to meeting people of different backgrounds and origins,” Musrasrik said. “Simply broadening my understanding of race, LGBTQ+, class and other categories will allow me to not just have knowledge or the facts, but to better myself as a human being, to be more tolerant and understanding, and to accept people without passing judgment.”
Musrasrik attended the conference for the first time, while ASEOU President Daysi Bedolla brought experience from two years ago. A double-major in biochemistry and sociology, Bedolla grew up in Woodburn, but is originally from Michoacan, Mexico. She co-sponsored a workshop at the conference and took part in a panel discussion about immigration.
“When I went last time, I identified a lot with others who have the same struggles — individuals who share how I grew up,” Bedolla said. “Many students come from different backgrounds, and I believe it is important to have individuals who think differently so that we can grow as a society.”
Bedolla, Musrasrik and the 18 other EOU students returned to campus with a revitalized network of peers and new skills in advocacy work, social justice, organizing efforts and building equitable and inclusive communities. Student participants plan to share their experience with EOU clubs and organizations, and some might present at EOU’s Celebrate, Educate and Appreciate Diversity (CEAD) Conference or Student Leadership Conference.
“This is an opportunity that we believe will engage students, encourage them to get involved, and provide further personal and professional development and cultural competence training that will enhance their leadership skills” said Multicultural Center Director Bennie Moses-Mesubed. “It is also an exciting opportunity to introduce EOU students to students on other Oregon campuses, in hopes that they will network, share ideas and get more involved on campus as well as collaborate on future events.”
Bedolla said she hopes to do just that — incorporating lessons from the conference into her leadership of EOU’s student government.
“It is important for students at EOU to be exposed to different points of view,” she said. “Many of us are leaders so we have to maintain a neutral ground, but also be aware of what goes on around our whole state, nation and even the world.”