Last Friday, Binghamton University once again hosted the Let Us Dream Conference, a platform organizers say was created to empower people of all different ages and backgrounds, as well as promote community service and collaboration working toward the betterment of society.
Held over Zoom on Nov. 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the conference had over 30 speakers scheduled throughout three panels of discussion. The three panels highlighted education partnerships, health equity and social justice. Speakers and attendees had the opportunity to share their research and reflect on their experiences, encouraging volunteerism and community improvement across all cultures.
BU President Harvey Stenger delivered the opening address, saying why he felt holding such conferences is important, and discussions people can have to promote positive change.
“I am proud of all that [BU] does to assist the community,” Stenger said. “But we all know there is always more to be done. Many in our community don’t have access to proper nutrition, health care and educational opportunities. Today’s panelists and keynotes will address these critical issues with discussions on education partnerships, health equity and social justice. It’s our hope that these discussions will lead to further partnerships and new and impactful ways to better our community and address those inequities. This conference reflects [the College of Community and Public Affairs’] mission of applied scholarship for researchers and practitioners [who] have come together to extend and expand each other’s work.”
Elizabeth Anderson, Let Us Dream Conference chair, researcher, associate director of the Institute for Justice and Well-Being and associate professor in the department of teaching, learning and educational leadership, wrote about the overall mission and goals of these conversations.
“The conference explored the needs of our time, shared solution-focused ways of responding to these needs and encouraged the next generation to envision something new for the empowerment of all, and the betterment of every community,” Anderson wrote in an email. “The 2021 Let Us Dream Conference theme centered around equity and access as the foundation upon which opportunity gaps are closed, and the whole child, whole family and whole community can thrive around education, mental health and wellness, housing, employment and so much more. During the conference, attendees were encouraged to embrace the small things, celebrate initiatives from the heart and share fluid and sustainable ideas that bridge research to practice, share best practices and offer hope for a more equitable tomorrow.”
Keynote speakers for the conference included Amber Simpson, assistant professor in the department of teaching, learning and educational leadership. She wrote about her decision to speak at the conference and what it meant to her.
“When I was asked to give the keynote for this conference, I did not hesitate to say yes,” Simpson wrote in an email. “Not because I had any idea of how I would be an inspiration to share words of wisdom that would encourage and motivate those in attendance to leave this conference and change the world. I said yes because I am a ‘yes’ person. I would characterize myself as someone who works excessively and compulsively, yet I highly enjoy what I do. But what this means is that I rarely take time to sit and reflect on myself as an educator, a researcher, a colleague, a friend, an adviser and mentor or even a daughter or a sister. But, as I started to think about this keynote, I was forced to stop and reflect, which has been a journey to say the least.”
Simpson used her keynote presentation, titled “Small Things,” to showcase her research and explain the small things she does in the community to highlight creativity, innovation, inquisitiveness and problem-solving. She said she hoped to shed light on discussions that do not really happen in the classroom. She also discussed how she has been learning from her community using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach.
Alexandra Miranda, a senior triple-majoring in sociology, human development and Latin American and Caribbean studies, shared her opinion on the social panel of the conference.
“I think a really important way to change these narratives is to actively confront and challenge our own implicit biases toward marginalized groups,” Miranda said. “We need to understand the privileges that come with being a U.S. citizen. If you are a U.S. citizen, an important aspect of this is being confronted directly with how much can be lost so quickly, as well as acknowledging the freedom, mobility and rights that you have. We should be utilizing that privilege and that knowledge to confront any biases you may have toward immigrant populations, and turning it instead into support of these populations and the community around you.”
Luz Velazquez, ‘21, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and spoke on the social panel as well, explained the importance of coming together no matter what walk of life you’re from and changing the status quo for the better.
“I think it’s just a simple thing of saying ‘hi’ and acknowledging a person and validating their experiences and feelings and how you can assist them,” Velazquez said. “Whether that be welcoming someone into your home and offering them dinner, or just being willing to hear stories and challenging what you hear on the news and getting to know the people impacted by these various policies. Together with our voices united we are so much more powerful.”