The Ethnic Student Center (ESC) will host the 17th Annual ESC Conference, Nov. 2 through Nov. 4 at Camp Casey.

As outlined in the ESC Conference registration packet, the purpose of the conference is, “ to provide opportunities for personal growth and leadership development, to offer resource information, to strengthen unity between ESC participants, and to enable students to learn more about the WWU community.”

The theme of this year's conference is “Generations: Continuing A Culture of Conscious Community.” All conference participants will be expected to read a short provided essay by Aaron Kreider, entitled “Student Power” about the role of university students in social justice movements.

“For me the theme is about passing on knowledge and wisdom to whoever is coming after us; to keep the ESC continuing on as a hands-on thing,” Chase Chau, a member of the ESC Conference Committee, said. Chau is coordinator for Brown Pride, an ESC club provides resources, education and conversation for queer people of color and their allies, he said.

The conference provides an important opportunity early in the school year for ESC club members and interested Western students to develop networking skills and build a sense of community, Chau explained.

“I think it's a way of getting a group of students together to get to know each other and build a community for campus—to get out of their comfort zones and their clique they've found to make new friends and connections,” he said.

The conference also presents valuable leadership and organizing skills for club members to put to work during the school year; a major incentive for students to return, Dennis Williams explained, president of the Black Student Union and a recruited member of the conference committee.

“From my perspective it is a leadership conference helping students who want to learn leadership, communication, and networking skills and intertwines cultural aspects,” he said.

Those cultural aspects are highlighted throughout the weekend, culminating in the Cultural Sharing Night that takes place on Saturday evening.

“[Cultural Sharing Night is] kind of like International Night, club members give a preview of what their club's culture is all about, featuring dance, outfits, poetry, and music,” Chau said.

Williams said he will also focus on contributing cultural games, such as spades and some cultural foods to the conference. On top of the cultural food, games, and dancing, there will also be time provided for field games, a bonfire, a nature walk, and a spoken word slam.

But really, the cultural sharing and networking is just the icing on the cake. The ESC Conference packs real power into their weekend with a series of “institutes,” workshops on topics designed to empower students and assist in leadership development, Williams said.

According to the registration brochure, this year's conference will see institutes hosted by professors, student administrators, and student leaders themselves. The topics include: leadership, professional communication and group development, social and civic activism, academic support strategies, major event programming, media and representation. There's even a workshop focused on “The Ultimate Survival Guide to the Ethnic Student Center Team Formation.”

“It made me realize that a lot of people say ‘I want to see change' but if you really want to see change you can do things to make it happen,” Williams said. “Once you learn the procedures you can get a lot done on this campus.”

After taking a chance as a transfer student and attending the conference alone two years ago, Williams now heads up one of the ESC's largest clubs, he explained.

Although the average cost of attendance for the ESC Conference is $140, that money is subsidized by the Associated Students, bringing the total cost down to a $30 registration fee the includes all conference activities, five meals, two nights of lodging and a conference t-shirt designed by students.

“We have limited space so registering early if you plan on going is highly recommended,” Janna Cecka, ESC program coordinator said.

Since the ESC Conference tends to fill up quickly, a priority registration deadline has been set this year on Oct. 12 for all ESC club members. From October 19 to 24, registration will be open to all Western students interested in attending if space is available.

This new registration distinction helps to prioritize seniority and involvement in the ESC, ensuring that the skills learned at the conference will come back to the Ethnic Student Center and be put to use in its clubs and activities, Chau explained.

Both Chau and Williams said they are looking forward to seeing new faces at the conference this year.

“I once heard a white student say, ‘I'm not ethnic; I can't go to the ESC conference,' but the point is that we're all ethnic; we're just different ethnicities,” Williams said. “The goal of the conference is to become ethnically aware of other cultures and better leaders because of it.”

Attending a new conference may seem daunting to some students, but Chau said he encourages new-comers.

“Just take the risk, there's nothing to lose,” Chau said. “It's there for you.”