Social Work Students Attend Diversity Conference
By: Daniel Vieth
Posted: September 16, 2014
As JMU works toward becoming an engaged university, students and faculty must continue the dialogue on issues of diversity and underrepresented student populations. One example of JMU’s commitment to understanding these issues at our university and at schools across the nation is the work of Dr. BJ Bryson and her team of four social work students; Rashema Jefferson, Alexis Simms, Asiza Isler and Ha Tang. After participating in a semester-long independent study analyzing data on different students’ attitudes toward diversity issues, the team attended last year’s National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE) in Indianapolis, Ind from May 27 to June 1. The four students were sponsored by a special Diversity Initiative from the Special Assistant to the President on Diversity Issues to attend the conference.
NCORE is an annual conference for students, faculty, administrators, and community members interested in multicultural forums aimed at addressing diversity issues on American campuses. According to their website, NCORE is the leading and most comprehensive national conference series on issues of race and ethnicity in American higher education. NCORE is also designed to promote sustainable institutional changes that will improve racial relations on campuses and expand educational opportunities for traditionally underrepresented populations. While attending the conference, the students participated in a number of forums, including a presentation lead by Bryson. “These forums focus on dialogue, information exchange, and discussion,” explained Tang (2014). “This allows diverse members from different universities to collaborate and empower others on campus to speak up and make a difference.”
The independent study that preceded the students and Bryson’s attendance at NCORE involved continuing research the department had already started on diversity within the Social Work Department. This included looking at quantitative data through online surveys that social work students had taken in previous years. “I wanted the opportunity to do research on a topic I am passionate about: Diversity,” Tang continued. “I wanted to know more about how campuses throughout the United States treat diversity and generate ideas and conversations with people.” Through secondary data analysis, the students hope to be able to make suggestions for how the department could improve the experiences of diverse students.
Before attending the conference, Tang was also accepted as an NCORE 2014 Student Scholar. Through this program, Tang was awarded a Student Scholar Certificate of Participation after completing the NCORE Student Scholars’ On-Site Educational Program. “I needed to participate in at least 20 session hours at NCORE, but I ended up going to more than that,” Tang exclaimed. “There were so many interesting topics, I had more trouble with time conflicts rather than not making the required hours.” Tang was ecstatic and honored to be awarded as a Student Scholar.
With next year’s NCORE conference taking place in Washington, DC, the Social Work Department is hopeful that more students will be able to attend and bring their experiences back to JMU to make a difference. “I am absolutely planning to attend NCORE next year,” Tang continued. “I am looking forward to seeing the people I met at NCORE this year next year!”