Hundreds of students representing all nine University of California undergraduate campuses will descend upon Merced this weekend for the annual Student of Color Conference.
The conference is sponsored by the University of California Student Association (UCSA) - the official voice of students from across the UC system. Organizers say the conference's mission is for students of color to come together and share their experiences to better identify targeted advocacy among different identity groups.
Why the UC Merced campus? As a Southern California native, UCSA UC Merced External Vice President Arianne Huffman said she wanted to give students from other campuses a reason to come to Central California for what was likely many students' first time. Huffman said all she had to do is ask.
"A lot of people haven't really been to the Central Valley," she said. "I am excited for them to see what it is actually like for themselves."
About 350 students are expected to attend the conference taking place Jan. 26-28 at the UC Merced Conference Center.
"We figure out student complaints and needs; that way we can advocate to each campus' administration as well as the UC Regents," said Huffman.
This year's identity training will focus on anti-Blackness.
"The focus is whatever marginalized group we think needs attention that specific year," said Huffman. "We will give training regarding that identity or culture and how to be more mindful when interacting."
Huffman said the conference's various workshops "teach tricks of the advocacy trade while developing awareness and understanding of other groups." For example, learning how to use ChatGPT to draft legislative bills and other methods of utilizing AI to help with advocacy.
This year's workshops will focus on Southeast Asian culture, different Indian diasporas, and Black diasporas, among other topics.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to meet people from the different campuses and better understand how the UC experience applies at all locations," said Huffman. "We all have very similar struggles; it just shows up in different ways because we are all in different environments."