The Ethnic Student Center is hosting its annual Conference over the weekend of October 21 to 23. This year will be the 15th anniversary of the conference.
“[The conference] started as a retreat for ESC leaders,” said Michael Vendiola, the ESC coordinator and activities advisor. Now, said Vendiola, the conference appeals to people outside of the ESC, and the workshops and activities that conference participants join in address many different topics. Some of these include a workshop on graduate school, a creative writing workshop, and a cultural cooking class.
Some elements of the event have become staples of the ESC Conference. There are two keynote speakers who will talk at the conference. Aaron Dixon, who will speak on the night of Friday, October 21, is the founding member of the Seattle Chapter of Black Panthers. On Saturday, October. 22, Joanna Kadi, a writer, musician, poet, and community activist, will also speak. One of the most popular events at the conference is Cultural Sharing, a time when participants can share their personal cultural experiences through dance, story, outfit, music, or another means.
Participants will also have free time, in which they can play 3 on 3 basketball, add to community art, or stroll along the beach.
The conference takes place at Camp Casey, a former military base on Whidbey Island. The cost is $30 for Western students and faculty members, and includes two nights of lodging at Camp Casey, five meals, a t-shirt, and several workshops. Because space is limited, participants must pre-register by Thursday, Oct. 13.
Christina Sakura, a Western senior, has gone to the ESC Conference several times, and highly encourages other students to.
“I went my first year here at Western,” Sakura said. “It’s a really good experience for new students because it’s a really easy way to meet lots of other students. There are also a lot of returners to the conference because they know how fun it is.”
Sakura feels the conference was a way to become more involved in Western as a whole. “I eventually got into a club, and became president of the Asian and Pacific Islanders Student Union,” she said.
The ESC Conference has grown in popularity every year it has operated, said Vendiola. “It’s the largest event, the highlight of the year for the ESC,” Vendiola said.
Last year, the event reached its largest at 220 participants. For logistical reasons, the conference can’t exceed much more than that, which in some ways helps maintain the more personal and intimate feel of the conference, Vendiola said.
Rachel Andrews, the Co-Chair of the Chinese Student Association, has an idea about why the conference has gone from around 30 people in its first year to over 200 more recently. “People go and realize what a great experience it is and tell other people,” Andrews said. Because of this, pre-registration is vital for anyone interested in attending the conference.
Vendiola said that the demand for the ESC Conference has required an effort to keep the small feel that the event originally had. “We’re trying to put out a high-quality experience for these students,” he said. “Even though the conference has grown, that bonding element is still present.”
The ESC is for all students and faculty members, not just those of color, Andrews said. “The ESC is the umbrella organization for all the ethnic clubs. Anyone can start a club,” Andrews said. “The ESC is open to anyone, not just club members, and all clubs are open to anyone to join,” she said.
The ESC provides an on-campus space for several AS clubs to meet, as well as provides resources for club members and nonmembers alike on how to host events, volunteer, build leadership, and connect with the community.
“A lot of what the ESC is about is student development and student leadership,” Vendiola said.
Every year, the ESC chooses a theme to unify the goals and beliefs of the center. This year’s theme is “Evolution Of The Revolution: Everyday Strategies For Change.”
Vendiola said that this theme reminds people that the human rights and social justice movement still continues today, but in a different form than the marches and protests of several decades ago.
Andrews, who was behind the creation of this year’s theme, added, “This year’s theme is about looking back to the original revolution and seeing how it’s changed. We’re internalizing the revolution. The movement is always happening, and the things we do every day, the little things, add up to perpetuate the movement.”
For more information on the ESC Conference, visit the Ethnic Student Center in the Viking Union room 420, call (360) 650-7271, or visit the Web site at www.ac.wwu.edu/~esc.