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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Justice in Action Conference opens a dialogue among students

Photo by Elena Fiegen
The Office of Student Development and Center for Community Service organized the Justice in Action Conference Feb. 23 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 

The Office of Student Development and Center for Community Service, with help from 11 other organizations on campus, organized the Justice in Action Conference, which took place this past Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. 

Kelly Walker, director of community service and a key coordinator of the event, said the goal of the event was “to bring people (together) to (create a) dialogue and get people to know each other and learn from each other.” Walker said she hoped the students would be able to have these dialogues about a wide rage of social justice issues.

The conference’s lectures, panels and lunch discussions focused on everything from racial issues, privilege, environmental sustainability, LGBTQ issues, human migration and homelessness. 

The conference consisted of two main parts: “skill-builders” in the morning and “knowledge-builders” in the afternoon, with a free lunch provided in between in which attendees could have more in-depth discussions about a specific issue. 

Walker said almost 200 students pre-registered for the conference and there were several more walk-in registrations.

This was the fourth annual Justice in Action Conference, Walker said, and hosts included the Burke Scholarship Program, Campus Ministry, the Center for Community Service, the Center for Intercultural Engagement, the Center for Peacemaking, the Counseling Center, Marquette University Student Government, the Office of Community Engagement, the Office of Residence Life, the Office of Student Development, the Service Learning Program, the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education/Student Wellness Center, Student Affairs and the Trinity Fellows Program.

Walker said she hopes students will benefit from the conference regardless of their current level of involvement in social justice. 

“If a student’s never stepped foot into justice work but is interested, there’s going to be something there for them to identify the next steps,” Walker said. “And same for students who are really experienced activists or have sort of traveled this path already, I hope that they find the skill-building and education pieces useful but also get to know their peers and make connections.” 

Tim McMurtry, a consultant to nonprofits and the conference’s keynote speaker, kicked off the event with a call for students to not be complacent with the injustices in life. 

“Think bigger,” McMurtry said. “Care about your advocacy. Have conviction about it. Be compassionate about those who you are serving. Be consistent with your advocacy and also advocate even when it’s inconvenient.” 

Courtney Lowman, graduate assistant for community service who helped with the conference’s publicity, said the skill-building activities helped students learn how to make a difference with whatever social justice issue interested them. Students  learned about youth-centered engagement projects, how to make a difference in a democracy, how to approach bystander intervention or how to be mindful of privilege. She said these activities were not for getting background information on a social justice topic, but more for applying the background information to try to find out what to do next. 

Lowman said knowledge-builders activities were  the opposite. They provided a foundation in knowledge for  students who  wanted to learn more about a topic, such as Marquette University Police Department’s resources or sustainability on campus. 

Walker said the conference was especially in line with Marquette’s Jesuit identity that focuses on social justice. 

“We find this identity in pockets all around campus in different ways, whether that’s volunteering, activism or involvement in community research or whatever that looks like for them,” Walker said. “And we felt the need to support both those individual students in what they’re doing but also bring folks together to learn from each other. It’s so easy to have your field of vision narrowed to what’s right in front of you and not connected to what other students on campus are doing.” 

Sara Manjee, a junior in the College of Business Administration, acted as the programming co-chair along with Estrella Limon, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration. As co-chairs they worked alongside Walker in planning and organizing the event.

Manjee said this was the first year the conference was led by students as opposed to professional faculty members. 

“This is a conference for students, so students should be planning it and leading it as well,” Manjee said. 

One such workshop was led by Dan Brophy, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and MUSG legislative vice president. He moderated a panel discussion that included Wisconsin State Legislature Rep. Kalan Haywood and Rep. Robyn Vining, Jarrett English, senior field advisor of the ACLU of Wisconsin and Angela Lang, a board member of the ACLU of Wisconsin. 

The panel discussed their respective journeys that brought them to their careers in social justice and encouraged Marquette students to work hard for social justice as well. 

“People matter,” Lang said. “And every life and every livelihood is worth fighting for.” 

After that panel, Grace Reid, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, helped lead a workshop spearheaded by Catholic Relief Services to help students learn more about the democratic process, with a specific focus on advocating for human migration issues. 

“We actually went on the (Capitol) Hill and advocated for this particular issue over the summer,” Reid said. “And we wanted to bring this to campus because there are a lot of student groups on campus, but we want to think about how we can take that next step about effecting change rather than just bringing awareness. Bringing awareness is good, but we also want to effect change and this is how we do it.” 

Bella Hennessy, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, said she originally decided to attend the conference as a representative from MUSG. 

“It seemed very interesting and important to attend to be more socially aware,” Hennessy said. 

Callie Scott, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, said she had attended similar workshops in high school and attended the convention due to persuasion from her friends. 

“It’s always nice to get a new perspective on stuff,” Scott said. “Seeing the LGBT group talk about the issues they face and seeing their point of view was important.” 

Manjee said she hopes the conference has a lasting effect on the students’ perspectives. 

“The stories you hear and the unique perspectives that you gain from other students and presenters, you’re going to take that and internalize it and keep it with you and continue to reflect on that,” Manjee said. “You’re going to take what you learn and build that into your everyday life. You’re not just going to sit back and not take action about things because you have these tools and you know how to go on and take the next step.” 

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