From April 20 to 22, Bellevue College hosted the 2017 Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Region V Power of One Conference: Coalition through Community. This was the first time Bellevue College hosted the conference.
The goal of the conference was to help LGBTQ students become student leaders who can create a better community by working together. The conference focused on six tracks: ally development, gender, health and wellness, social justice, leadership and creative arts. Topics such as defining gender identity, bullying, finding leaders and LGBTQ micro-aggressions were discussed through mixers, community building activities and lectures. Events included toxic masculinity, anonymous HIV testing and self-defense. Each day lasted from about 10:00 a.m. 9:00 p.m., containing a mix of each track.
NASPA hosts regional conferences every year, with the Northwest being Region V. Region V’s goal is to improve regional professional development opportunities and encourage research and innovation. Additionally, Bellevue College is a part of NASPA’s Community Colleges Division. For 2017, the CCD is focusing on increasing visibility for community colleges, creating opportunities, contributing to discussions on issues for community colleges, and increasing membership into the NASPA program.
“Power of One was created to foster community and development of youth leadership and services based around LGBTQ+ students,” said Amy Robles, Bellevue College Resource Center coordinator. “Central to the conference is providing education and networking to both students and faculty to improve community and campus services and activism.”
Keynote speakers such as comedians and writers Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard, J Mase III of #BlackTransMagick, activist Dr. Kevin Nadal and Washington State Representative Brady Pinero Walkinshaw spoke at the conference to encourage and inspire students.
“All speakers were chosen to represent intersectional identities and those that are making cultural change through their various identities and jobs,” said Dr. Craig Hurd-McKenney, chair of Bellevue College LGBTQ Task Force.
Speakers from Bellevue College also presented sessions for the conference. Jesse DeFelice presented several different events including toxic masculinity, overcoming community infighting and three transgender sessions. “I hope they’ll learn different perspectives because we all have our own perspective, and that’s how we view the world,” said DeFelice. “I hope they see things from a different side and that will allow them to learn about their own community in the LGBT community or learn about the LGBT community. I hope that they see how personal this all is, and if maybe you don’t agree with the LGBT community, you can see how we’re all human.”
The conference was made up of not only Bellevue College students and administrators, but also people living out of state. NASPA encouraged scholarships for those who lived at least 200 miles away from Bellevue College. This offered a chance for students who would usually be unable to attend the conference to come. Other students who did not apply for scholarships booked hotels to attend.
“We have to stop thinking about social issues as ‘my issues’ versus ‘their issues,’” said Hurd-McKenney. Any social injustice truly diminishes us all, and we have to start working together—on the bigger picture—in order to build coalition.”
“Bellevue College’s students and staff alike will benefit from the resources the conference brings from work around intersections in oppression and activism to providing social events for LGBTQ+ students to giving a platform for LGBTQ+ history and education for youth,” said Robles.